Here we go. The master calendar for games that will be available this holiday season has finally sorted itself out. What’s in and what’s out for 2015 is finally clear, the first of an A+ list of releases is already here. This is a big season for game downloading, and gamers are getting their first real data about how big these games will actually be. While non-gamers may be teeing up “It’s a Wonderful Life”, gamers will be expecting their 10, 20, 30, and 50 GB game to download flawlessly.
So how much downloading is actually going to take place? A rough guess is fairly easy to make - take the game size, multiply by sales, and apply the percentage of digital distribution that the publisher is expected to reach. For example, if Electronic Arts sells 1M copies of Need for Speed, releasing November 3, we know approximately 52% of these games, or 520000 copies will be digital (EA now earns 52% of its revenues through digital distribution, according to its financials). Multiply this by the size of the game, and we get a rough estimate of the download traffic from this one game.
Since this promises to be a very active release season, I’ve decided to create a game download tracker which I’ll update with reliable data as it’s released. First off - here’s the schedule and size of some major games coming out in the remainder of 2015:
Holiday Game Download Tracker
By all accounts, Halo 5 is off to a strong start, with some estimates being as high as 3M copies sold. I’ve taken the conservative route with a 1M estimate, but still - this is more than a quarter of an Exabyte in download traffic alone. Digital downloading relies on the speed and capacity of the world’s content delivery networks to fuel its growing dominance as a game distribution model.
Follow this blog over the next 8 weeks as we follow the real demands this is placing on worldwide network traffic.
November 4 Update: Microsoft announces sales of $400M for Halo 5 in the first week! We've updated the calculator to show download traffic from this one game!
November 12 Update: Activision announces sales of $550M for Call of Duty, Black Ops III in its first weekend!!! The race for blockbuster king is officially on. And what about the traffic impact? Activision's official press release indicated digital downloads were up 100% from last year's percentage for COD. Conservative industry estimates for last year's release were 15% digital, so we can confidently estimate this year 30% of COD's downloads will be digital.
November 18 Update: Wow - Not to be outdone, Bethesda Game Studios announced today it sold $750M worth of Fallout4 in its first 3 days. This astounding figure is a function of year-long build-up and pre-orders for this popular game. Super Data Research CEO, Joost Van Dreunen @_SuperData estimates digital sales at approximately 1.84M, or 14% of our estimated 12M copies sold. Oh - regarding the headline for this blog- an astute reader commented on the use of "Torrent" and how it evokes piracy, so we changed it. We're measuring legit downloads only!
November 24 Update: No word from EA yet on initial sales of Star Wars Battlefront. Since the game will be releasing some DLC very soon (next week),perhaps EA is waiting for the total picture to develop. It will certainly be hard for Battlefront to top Fallout4 which built up almost a year's worth of pre-orders, but being one of the millions of Star Wars fans myself, I'm rooting for SW all the way. Same with Microsoft's TombRaider - a beautiful game that was previewed at E3. The scenery is magnificent, and they've added new models of play that allow for more stealth and less direct combat (read 'violence") in this version.
December 3 Update: Microsoft shares that 330,000 copies of Tomb Raider sold in its first week, which at 60% estimated digital distribution brings the the total game downloads closer to a third of an Exabyte! Game director Brian Horton is happy with the game sales to date, even thought they may have been impacted by the launch of Fallout4 the same week. Still no word on Star Wars downloads!!!
December 10 Update: Star Wars Battlefront executives are staying firm about projections of 10-13M units by March 31st. Conservatively - this means the launch is 15.7% through its first sales period, hence our estimate of 1.5+M units sold. At 52% digital, and using the smaller game size required for XBox One, this amounts to .015 exabyte of traffic just for this blockbuster alone. Official sales figures for the game have not been released yet, and pricing is mixed with not all vendors following Game Stop's lead in reducing the price to $40. Need for Speed has no plans to charge for DLC in its "always online" game released November 3rd and it will be interesting to see if this encourages game sales. Rainbow 6 and Just Cause 3 are garnering many more positive reviews than negative, but there are indications that Call of Duty and Star Wars may be outpacing them in holiday sales.
December 21 Update: It's official - we've reached a third of an Exabyte. Here's how we got to this point: According to SteamSpy, at least 2.4M or 18% of estimated Fallout4 sales have been sold digitally for PC's, bumping download traffic for this title up 4% over previous estimates. Forbes Magazine quotes VGChartz estimates for BlackOps III which show cumulative sales at week four hitting 12 million - 1 million higher than our estimate last week, again meaning download traffic has been significant for this title. No update on Tomb Raider this week, but industry pundits continue to believe that its release day overlap with Fallout4 did not help sales. We are now 5 weeks into the Star Wars Battlefront launch, with EA estimating (conservatively) that the game will sell 10M copies in 19 weeks, i.e. end of March. So at 26% of the way, we can conservatively estimate sales have topped 2.5 million and download traffic from this game is fast and heavy. Still no OFFICIAL word on Rainbow 6, but game is not only continuing to collect excellent reviews, but likely boosted sales this past weekend with a free referral version for Rainbow 6 Siege.
December 28 Update: It looks like download volume was heavy and so were complaints when Electronic Arts was likely hit by a DDoS attack on Christmas eve, according to VentureBeat. This brought Star Wars downloading to a halt for a while. So rather than assume a Christmas bump, we added another prorated week to the expected sales for Star Wars. Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six for PS4 and PC also experienced difficulty and required patches. Coming this week the long awaited StarCraft II release. Also, Steam announces that Tomb Raider's PC version will be available in January which will certainly bump our download chart.
Stay tuned for an early January update where we survey publishers official figures on holiday downloads!
January 8 Update: Just Cause 3, released in early December, according to one source has reached 1.55 million units, but nothing official yet from Square Enix. Starcraft II Legends of the Void sold 1 M units in its first 24 hours, meaning that its co-launch date with blockbuster Fallout4 did little or no damage to this resilient favorite. Another week of Star Wars sales brings us to almost 40% of an Exabyte. But that’s not all - both Just Cause 3 and Rainbow 6 have issued important patches - meaning even more downloading was needed to get the best performance out of those games. Big story for another blog - both Sony and EA attacked by DDoS attacks during the holiday week and both attacks likely came from Phantom Squad imitating Lizard Squad’s attacks on Xbox One and PSN last year at the same time. But both sites were back online after only a few hours. Take that Phantom - the downloads continue - go DDoS Protection Squad!!
Final Update February 1:
For this final chart we first updated Star Wars, using a weekly prorated amount based EA's claims that sales have been on track for 10M by March. Fallout4 continues to be a juggernaut. After initial sales of $750M, or approximately 12 million, the game went on to sell over 2.5M copies on Steam alone. Special thanks to SteamSpy who provided this estimate in their annual summary charts. Activision's Call of Duty, Black Ops III had a strong PC release, and we added SteamSpy's estimated sales of more than 700000 copies for the PC to this title's estimate also. As if to confirm this year's crossover from mostly physical to mostly digital, SuperData research just announced worldwide sales of digitally downloaded games topped $61B in 2015 with Activision, Tencent, and Supercell the dominant sellers of digitally downloaded games. Sadly we've come across no credible reports regarding Need for Speed sales, digital or otherwise so this entry remains blank. Admittedly, the Microsoft 60% digital estimate is aggressive, and there has been industry controversy regarding the proportion of digital to in-store sales. Overall, however, we're confident that digital downloading for these games during the 2015 Holidays totaled more than 40% of an Exabyte-an epic amount of traffic.
The next big month in downloads? It looks to be April of 2016 following the release of many games announced last year at E3, but delayed until the early months of 2016. Questions? Comments? Challenges? Happy to hear from readers any time . Meanwhile - Game on!
Total: .41416103 Exabytes