It is difficult to overstate the importance of Killzone 3 sales for Sony. Much as the previous game in the franchise existed as a glorified tech demonstration of precisely how powerful the Playstation 3 is, developer Guerilla Games has once again been given the task of creating an interactive tech demonstration (as well as a solid gaming experience). It is not enough for Killzone 3 play well and to look fantastic, especially now that the current console generation is 5 years old. Instead, it also exists as a sales pitch 3D gaming on home consoles. It must also play well using a traditional dual-stick control layout and utilize Sony’s proprietary Move controller.
Judging by my experience with the public demo recently released for the game, Killzone 3 is a rock-solid technical experience. Graphics and online gameplay are remarkably polished; gamers who own a PS3 and are into FPS games need to buy this game. While I do not personally own a 3D-capable display or the Playstation Move, feedback on these features from other press outlets has been quite positive – several sites praising the Move as the way to play the game.
HULIQ has already noted a correlation between an increase in pre-orders of Killzone 3 and sales of Playstation 3 systems – but can we quantify how well the game itself will sell? After all, though Killzone 3 exists (in large measure) to push PS3 systems, 3D gaming, and Move hardware it has to sell physical copies in order to accomplish these goals.
When attempting to forecast sales of a sequel, it is always helpful to examine sales of its predecessor – particularly since the platform remains the same. According to best estimates, Killzone 2 has sold a bit over 2.5 million copies worldwide since its launch in late February of 2009. The most recent confirmed sales data came shortly after its release, when Sony revealed that the title had passed 1 million units on April 16th.
Since then, the Playstation 3 install base has increased dramatically, and HULIQ’s tracking chart has shown strong demand for pre-orders of Killzone 3. Even more importantly, the game is the closest thing to a ‘killer app’ for the Playstation Move hardware, suggesting that it will see a rather large uptake by owners of the Move looking for a new game to take advantage of the software. In fact, the positive reception surrounding its Move controls may do more to help the game than sales of previous games in the franchise, especially if Sony supports the game with a marketing push outside of the enthusiast gaming press.
Considering the weak state of games available for the Playstation Move, it is the approximately 4 million install base that is the wild card here. Though the Move is partly aimed at a casual gaming audience which could care less about a hardcore FPS like Killzone 3, many early adopters are also ‘core gamers’ who are likely disappointed at current game offerings – making the new title that much more appealing.
In the first six months, HULIQ predicts Sony will sell 3 million units of the game, putting it significantly ahead of Killzone 2 sales at the same time period. By the end of its first year, Killzone 3 will have sold 4 million units. Much of the second six month period will depend on DLC releases for the game, as new expansions can lead to a renewed sales drive for titles beyond their initial release window.
For comparison purposes, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter was willing to share his prediction for Killzone 3. In his estimation, it will sell 2.5 million units in the first six months.
The main factor which could keep sales below these levels would be that the Killzone franchise does not seem to have the same brand awareness as other competing FPS titles, even system-exclusives like Halo and Gears of War, despite achieving similar levels of critical acclaim. Alternatively, while Killzone 3 has definite sci-fi trappings, it plays much closer to a military FPS than other sci-fi shooters, and many PS3 gamers consider current military FPS offerings as technically flawed (e.g. Call of Duty: Black Ops and Battlefield: Bad Company 2) compared to the Xbox 360 versions. By delivering a solid (and stable) multiplayer experience, Sony and Guerilla Games could win over many players disenchanted with games that get much better support for the Xbox 360 than they currently do for the Playstation 3.
The last issue affecting Killzone 3, especially in the early release period, would the game it shares the February 22nd release date with: EA's Bulletstorm. HULIQ will be issuing its projection on that game shortly.
[Update: It is now available here.]