Surprisingly Popular or Success by Default?

I usually try to avoid getting involved in discussions about game sales and the quote-unquote console wars, but my May purchase of an Xbox 360 has changed that to some degree. I'm having such a great time with this console and the opportunities for enjoyment it affords me that I find myself, gasp!, actually cheering for Microsoft. And why shouldn't I, as these past weeks with the system have been the most enjoyable that I can remember as a gamer.

And apparently I'm not alone as reports the top 10 most requested games from Gamefly (gaming's answer to Netflix) are nearly all X360 titles. That's right, the console with the smallest install base of the current systems in place (PS2, Xbox, X360, Gamecube, DS, and PSP) has the most games that people are currently craving. And while it makes sense to an extent, considering that the other consoles are about to be phased out while the X360 is already enjoying next-gen life, it nevertheless is surprising when you consider that there are ten times as many PS2 owners as there are X360 owners.

-- Top Most Popular Week Ending July 3, 2006 Chart posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006

1. Chromehounds (Xbox 360)
2. Prey (Xbox 360)
3. Over G Fighters (Xbox 360)
4. Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth II (Xbox 360)
5. Dead Rising (Xbox 360)
6. NCAA Football 07 (Xbox 360)
7. Hitman: Blood Money (Xbox 360)
8. Naruto: Ultimate Ninja (PS2)
9. Gears of War (Xbox 360)
10. Call of Duty 3 (Xbox 360)

I was going to comment that this wasn't really all that impressive considering half these titles haven't been released yet (and won't until late summer and fall), but Gamefly is allowing Wii and PS3 titles to be added to people's queues. Also, where's Final Fantasy XII? Is that not an incredibly anticipated title? Interpreting this list is certainly harder than it looks on the surface. I can't help but wonder if this is just a case of Gamefly's demographics being primarily X360 owners as a result of the high price of new X360 titles ($59.99).

Actually, at least in my own case, yes it is. I've never been a fan of renting games, but the inflated price of X360 titles has led me to subscribe to Gamefly. And I too have many of the above titles on my queue. So, while the games are indeed popular, I have no intention of buying them unless they truly hook me good. Maybe posting a top ten "most popular games" list based on rental requests isn't really a good way to go about gauging the public's gaming temperature. After all, my guess is that the reason you don't see Final Fantasy XII and Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on this top ten list is because most people will buy the game without needing to rent it. If only we could say the same about games like Chromehounds and many of the others on this list.

Nope, the more I think about it, the more I have to conclude that like any other non-scientific polling or list that we see on the Internet, you can likely interpret it any way you want to. Just like the NPD data that lists top selling videogames without bothering to include retail giant, Wal-Mart's data -- it's useless if it's not entirely representative of the industry. If anything, this list simply shows that while a lot of X360 games are certainly on people's radar, they're on there as "rent first, buy maybe". And while Gears of War is certain to be one of the year's biggest sellers, you have to wonder if even its success will be hampered by the higher price point.

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