Have M-rated video games grown their market share? | 10 Years Ago This Month


The games business strikes fairly quick, and there’s a tendency for all concerned to look continuously to what’s next without a lot worrying about what came earlier than. That said, even an business so entrenched within the now can study from its past. So to refresh our collective reminiscence and perhaps supply some perspective on our subject’s history, GamesIndustry.biz runs this month-to-month function highlighting happenings in gaming from precisely a decade in the past.

If it seems like just yesterday we ran our monthly retrospective column, properly, it was.

But May of 2013 played host to the Xbox One reveal occasion, a debacle that consumed the column totally on its own, leaving little room for other topics just like the seemingly evergreen one we’ll discuss right now: violence.

A decade ago, I wrote an editorial on the game trade’s then-increasing reliance on violent games.

The key evidence was that M-rated games had been declining as a percentage of video games released annually, however significantly rising the amount of business revenues they represented. In 2011, solely about 9% of video games had an M-rating, but they collectively represented nearly 27% of revenues in the US.

A graph of M-rated games as a percentage of titles released and a percentage of US revenue they accounted for from 2005 through 2011. 

The graph shows M-rated games declining from about 12% of games released over that span to 5% in 2010, then up to 9% in 2011.

It also shows their market share at 15% from 2005 through 2007, then growing to over 15% by 2011.

The Entertainment Software Association stopped reporting on each ranking’s market share after the 2011 figures had been put out, probably because it was unclear simply how much larger that M-rated market share could go. The industry was still a well-liked scapegoat among many politicians, and even a Supreme Court choice affirming free speech protections for video games would not stop them from getting used as a cynical distraction from gun management.

So once I noticed that editorial in placing together this month’s 10 Years Ago column, I obtained curious about how those numbers would look today.

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M-rated franchises like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto are even larger now than they had been a decade and alter in the past, whereas Mortal Kombat, Assassin’s Creed, Resident Evil, and God of War have all seen their most successful entries launched in recent years.

But the other aspect of the scores spectrum can additionally be significantly stronger now than it was in 2011, thanks partially to Nintendo’s relative weakness then and energy at present.

The Wii phenomenon had all but collapsed by 2011, and the 3DS did not begin to flip the corner from its disastrous launch until the last two months of the 12 months with the debuts of Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land.

Compare that to recent years which have seen the Switch thrive alongside megahits like Fortnite (rated T) and Minecraft (E10+).

Add within the impact of the pandemic considerably growing the market by bringing in each lapsed and new players, and I might have seen that M-rated market share going either method.

Fortunately, the quantity crunchers at Circana (formerly NPD, which compiled the original market share figures for the ESA) were prepared to indulge my curiosity, with a quantity of caveats. They gave me the M-rating market share for bodily gross sales of the past five years, as a result of Nintendo does not report its digital gross sales to the company and the absence of Switch first-party titles would significantly skew the results.

Beyond that, they famous that the exclusion of downloadable content, microtransactions, and subscription spending from the equation means these trendy numbers are nowhere near as complete a look at the console and PC market as those from a dozen years in the past that we’re comparing them to.

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That stated, it is more info than we had earlier than, so many thanks to Circana.

And in case you had been questioning whether the market share of M-rated titles had gotten higher or lower since 2011, the answer is “each.”

  • 2018 – 35.1%
  • 2019 – 30.1%
  • 2020 – 26.2%
  • 2021 – 20.6%
  • 2022 – 22.1%

That 2018 determine is type of dire, right? That was slightly bit of an outlier year with M-rated video games as the top two best-sellers (Red Dead Redemption 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4) and just one Switch sport within the top ten (Super Smash Bros Ultimate at No.5).

I suspect the Switch and the pandemic alike drove the declines since 2020 as a broader audience of people re-discovered consoles or gave them a shot in the first place, though it seems both of these results may be sporting off.

Back then I was worried concerning the medium marginalizing itself… however the world of video games feels far larger these days

And whereas the dearth of Switch first-party sales in the digital data would nearly actually skew these numbers towards a greater proportion of M-rated titles, so would the reality that the broader Switch buyer base has not adopted digital distribution as closely as others.

Nintendo reported almost 48% of software sales coming from physical recreation gross sales last year, a far cry from the publishers of games like Far Cry.

Digital sales made up 85% of Ubisoft’s business final year. For EA, that determine is 90%. For Take-Two, digital accounted for 95% of revenues. For Activision Blizzard, it was 96%. Some of these numbers are skewed by overwhelmingly digital divisions like Blizzard, King, and Zynga, however the digitial/physical combine on Nintendo games is completely an outlier in the trade.

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The overall M-rated market share on consoles and PC might be really ugly when you issue within the digital numbers, but even if it surpasses the 2018 high of 35.1%, I would discover it hard to muster the identical concern as I did a decade in the past.

Back then I was worried concerning the medium marginalizing itself by leaning too closely into the gratuitous violence that was so typically used as a sales hook within the AAA world.

But the medium of games exterior AAA is so much greater these days. It’s not just that we’ve a seemingly unlimited variety of indie and mobile games offering completely different visions of what video games can be; it’s that so many of them are profitable sufficient to not only merit mainstream consideration alongside the AAA world, but to have their various approaches to everything then feed back into AAA and influence what we see from there.

The trade has thrived and diversified over the past decade, producing megahits for a variety of platforms, audiences, and monetization models. The Last of Us is not Candy Crush just isn’t League of Legends isn’t Genshin Impact is not Minecraft is not Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

The M-rated end of the AAA console and PC area is much less the face of the video games industry these days and more just another face within the crowd. And that is finally a win for all involved.


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