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The Divnich Tapes: How Both Microsoft And Sony Won With  GTA IV

The Divnich Tapes: How Both Microsoft And Sony Won With GTA IV

May 20, 2008 | By Jesse Divnich

[Throughout this week, EEDAR's director of analytical services Jesse Divnich is presenting exclusive Gamasutra analysis of April's hardware and software trends, using data from Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR), The simExchange, NPD, IGN GamerMetrics, and GameTrailers.

Following our study of April's underperforming software sales and its implications, Divnich examines the different ways with which both Microsoft and Sony can claim victory with Grand Theft Auto IV's Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 releases.]

Last month we hypothesized a number of possible outcomes for Grand Theft Auto IV's release, weighing different consumer data sources and prediction market data. The results were slightly better in favor of the PS3 than I originally estimated, but if you examine the data more closely, we can observe that both sides can claim their own victories.

Sony’s victories:

1. The Xbox 360 did sell more units, but the sales ratio of 1.85 to 1 for GTA IV fell below the current hardware sales ratio of 2.4 to 1. In other words, if life to date hardware sales were equal, the PS3 version of Grand Theft Auto IV would have likely sold more than the Xbox 360.

2. Since the sales ratio was much lower than previous AAA titles like Vegas 2 and Army of Two, Sony’s analysis that their loyal PS2 fan base would likely play a factor in sales " as it did with DMC4 " was true. Sony could take that one step further and even claim that brand loyalty prevailed over its competitor's biggest selling points: Microsoft’s superior Xbox Live service and exclusive GTA IV downloadable content.

Microsoft’s victories:

1. The 360 version of GTA IV did sell more units, and although we use “ratios” and “percentages” to level out the playing field when doing an analysis, at the end of the day, the team that sinks the most baskets wins, not the team with the best shot percentage.

2. For the last 2 weeks, GTA IV has led the Xbox Live playing charts. This is significant, since historically there is a strong correlation between the popularity of a game on Xbox Live and strong long-term sales in the retail channel. As a case in point, Call of Duty 4, a holiday 07 title, is still at number two on Xbox Live, and is still breaking into the top 10 in monthly NPD sales " by comparison, we have not seen the PS3 version of COD4 in the top 10 since January.

Looking at the bigger picture and combining all the facts, we can draw some hypothetical conclusions. On a worldwide basis, Sony can likely claim a victory in the short-term, since the 360 is only outselling the PS3 version by about 1.3 to 1 in Europe and 1.8 to 1 in the USA.

Microsoft will likely claim the biggest victory in the long-run, since its Xbox Live service will give the 360 version of GTA IV “longer legs” in terms of strong sales over the PS3 version. In fact, a recent Chart Track announcement backs that assumption, announcing that although the Xbox 360 version had 55 percent of the GTA IV sales in week one (in the UK), that gap rose to 62 percent in week 2.

The only definite conclusion we can draw is the same conclusion we reached last month, the GTA IV release did not and will not settle the ongoing battle between the PS3 and the Xbox 360. In fact, this battle will likely continue for some time. Of course, even if one of the consoles dropped out of the race and took over the others market share " a highly unlikely scenario " that system would still fall short to the Nintendo Wii.

This will be a subject we revisit next month since it is somewhat unfair to either console to draw too many conclusions with only one week of GTA sales in.

[Jesse Divnich currently serves as the director of analytical services at Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR). The following is the views and opinions of one person and not of EEDAR, The simExchange, GamerMetrics, or Gametrailers.]

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