Are Publisher’s Sales Expectations Too High?

With the recent layoffs at EA, and the news that Nintendo is disappointed with their hardware sales, this a negative week in the video game industry. Unfortunately, news of missed sales targets and company shutdowns are all too common in the world of video games nowadays. My question is: Why? A lot of these publishers have millions upon millions of dollars, only to lose a couple studios a week, putting hundreds of talented people out of work. For example, EA Montreal, the developer of the recently released Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel, was shut down shortly before the game’s release, putting a negative feeling in people’s heads, and ultimately most likely affecting the sales of the game.

Tomb Raider Screen

Tomb Raider sold 3.4 copies in its first month – an amazing feat for any video game.


Also of note is the recent Tomb Raider reboot. The game was reported to have sold approximately 3.4 million copies in a single month – a huge accomplishment for any game. However, Square Enix, the publisher of the game, came out saying that it did not reach sales expectations. For Square Enix to have expected over 3 million copies to be sold for a reboot of a franchise that had been dormant for five years is insanity, and an unrealistic goal. Now, luckily for Crystal Dynamics, the studio behind the reboot, they did not suffer nearly as bad as EA Montreal. Later on, Square Enix confirmed an “extraordinary loss,” totaling around $100 million. It is my belief that this loss is not Tomb Raider’s fault, but Square Enix’s fault for delaying its own first-party games, such as Final Fantasy Versus 13.

So, how much of these missed sales targets are the developer’s fault, and how much are the publisher’s fault? If a game does not get enough media coverage and advertisement, is that not the publisher’s fault? When a publisher signs on to, well, publish a game, they should know that they will need to spend money to make money, but they also need to have their expectations in check. While Tomb Raider had a large and prominent ad campaign, its publisher did not have realistic sales goals, as mentioned above.

However, do not let the negativity get you down, as there are still publishers out there who know how to be realistic.

bethesda softworks

Bethesda Softworks is responsible for publishing Dishonored last year.

For example, Bethesda Softworks published the hit game Dishonored last year. Shortly after the game’s release, Bethesda announced that it was exceeding their expectations, and that it is now a franchise. While no concrete numbers were revealed, one can gather that the game most likely did not sell Call of Duty numbers, probably more along the lines of what the new Tomb Raider sold, give or take. Now, the difference between Bethesda’s publishing strategy and Square Enix’s, is that Bethesda knew Dishonored, a new IP at the end of a generation, would not sell the same amount as Call of Duty, a series that does not break a sweat at selling a billion dollars in its first month. Because of this, they could put their expectations in check and make a profit, as well as allow the talented developers at Arkane Studios to keep their jobs and keep making fantastic games.

Did I miss a publisher? Are there other games that sold extremely well but fell short of expectations like Tomb Raider? If you know of anything, let me know below, and thanks for reading!