Image: Elden Ring
Today it was announced that Elden Ring, FromSoftware’s 2022 game of the year for many people (including most of the contributors to this site), has sold 20 million copies worldwide since its release a year ago. That is much.
You may be wondering why am I pointing this out to Kotaku, a site that in 2023 generally couldn’t give half a shit about sales boasts/numbers, especially when they’re wrapped in a publisher’s press release?
That’s because I think Elden Ring, a hard-hitting action/RPG that’s essentially a single-player experience, makes a hell of a point by selling 20 million copies in 2022-23. It shows publishers and the folks who control their wallets that not every video game released in the modern age has to be a Forever Game, a live-service timesink that not only demands our constant attention, but constantly for money asks while it is do it.
You buy Elden Ring, you play Elden Ring, you rinse Elden Ring and then you’re done with it! There are no DLC packs, no season passes, no multiplayer modes selling skins for $2. What you paid for is what you got. For many people who grew up playing less exploitative games, or who are fed up with the demands of modern gaming (or both!), the Elden Ring was conceptually a near-perfect video game experience.
I know it’s anything but alone. It’s not like every game released these days is a live service drain. In fact, this GOTY list I linked to above is dominated by standalone single player experiences.
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But none of them have sold 20 million copies. This is what makes Elden Ring sales so important. They not only show that a traditional video game can do well, they show that it can be an absolute blockbuster. While it can be hard to pin down specific sales figures in these days of digital storefronts, 20 million puts the game on par with Modern Warfare 2 and EA’s FIFA series, an extraordinary feat for a game that’s tough as hell and only has enjoyed a fraction of the advertising budget these juggernauts – both full price retail games that then try to trick players for even more money later on – have received.
You know what else is in this vending arena? Cyberpunk 2077 – which, OK, had its issues and an astronomical marketing budget too – sold over 20 million copies. God of War Ragnarok, another single-player experience released in 2022, has sold itself over 10 million copies (to Sony’s credit, much of their first-party strategy, from Horizon to The Last Of Us, follows a similar path) . Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the first single-player Star Wars game in a very long time? Oh hey, it also sold over 10 million, which was more than good enough to justify a big-budget sequel coming out very soon.
These massive sales figures are not only success stories for the companies involved, but also a sign to other publishers that the people who buy and play games may be tiring of this obsession with peeling us at every turn and ripping our hearts out of the game Ripping games in a desperate attempt to advance our time spent with them. I understand that companies know that a live service game can potentially make more money than a regular one – look at FIFA who have made billions from digital card sales on top of their retail profits – but it’s not guaranteed. Not every game has to do that. We have neither the time nor the money for that.
Sometimes people just want to play a video game, finish it, enjoy it the way it was, and then move on with their lives. And these people show that there are enough of them to not only buy a few million copies of these games, but to make them absolute blockbusters.