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Everyday Legend avatar 5:31 PM on 09.23.2013  (server time)
Simple Mathematics: Why Attach Rate Of Third-Party Titles Doesn't Mean Much

There's been a lot of back-and-forth in the comment sections of frontpage stories even remotely mentioning the Wii U possibly getting a version of SoulCalibur II HD Edition.  There have been people unable to provide any solid point of reference to sales numbers of the game in the past outside of a quick jaunt to, which while not the most reputable source for numbers possible...there's no other sites that compile these sales numbers and figures, so we must work with what we have.  There have also been a lot of people mentioning "attach rates" when arguing the point that the GC version, while incredibly popular, was outsold globally on the PS2 by over a half-million copies.

See, here's my logical quandary: attach rates don't mean shit unless it's a first party-title on their platform.  You're not looking for attach rates in third-party development and publishing, just pure sales.  Attach rates aren't an indicator of success at all, because you can hit a 50% attach rate on a hundred consoles and fail miserably, as opposed to only hitting a 10% attach rate on ten thousand consoles and it being a much greater success story.

You make a game.  In this argumentative case, it's SoulCalibur II HD Edition.

You have the choice of selling it on three consoles:
You can do the port work for the 360, with a seventy-five million install base.  You can do another port for the PS3, with the same install base of seventy-five million.  You can do a third with the Wii U, which only has a current install base of around six million.  Now, true to the title of this blog post, let's crunch some numbers and see what we get when we take a closer look at gross hypothetical numbers.

Let's say that the third is a wild success, and one quarter of those system owners buy it.  That's a 25% attach rate.  Now, let's say that the consoles with the larger install bases sell one tenth (10%) on the 360, and one twelfth (12%) on the PS3.

That means that the game is selling more than twice as well on the Wii U than it is on the other two systems, and one out of every four system owners is picking up this game.  This also assumes that over 10 percent of all console owners will buy this game, and while it's incredibly unrealistic to assume this would be the case, for the sake of scenario let's go with it and see what we come up with.

Wii U: One million, five hundred thousand copies.
360: Seven million, five hundred thousand copies.
PS3: Nine million copies.

That's eighteen million copies in total.  That is insane success for a digital title, especially for a ten-year old fighting game given a facelift and online play.

But the question remains: will one quarter of all Wii U owners actually buy this game? Digitally? I highly doubt it (and I also doubt the success rate on the other two consoles as well), so skew those numbers to a more realistic and less generous level of success.  Let's assume that the Wii U has the largest take yet again, and the other two consoles are getting the crap beaten out of them in terms of that all-powerful "attach rate."

Let's set the bar here:
Wii U @ 13%: Seven hundred and eighty thousand copies sold.
360 @ 5%: Three million, seven hundred and fifty thousand copies sold.
PS3 @ 7%: Five million, two hundred and fifty thousand copies sold.

So, let's add up the total of the PS3 and 360, and compare that to the Wii U, since both of their attach rates by themselves don't crack double-digits, and when combined don't equal the Wii U's singular take.


Nine million copies sold.  Versus 780,000.  That's not even one tenth, and those are still incredible, fantastic, wildly successful numbers to be posting.  So, please understand that when this game drops, it's probably not going to sell nine million copies off the bat.  It will probably sell a fifth of that.  

And you can go ahead and apply the "fifth of that" rule to the Wii U version, as well.  Considering the development costs to make that happen, what soft of profit margin do you think there is to be made on such an expenditure?

Be honest, now.  Don't let your love for a manufacturer tint your perspective.

Why go through the work of coding and working with old assets to make a product that may not be worth the expenditure?  I mean, sure, if the other two are done and you can just work on it to complete the set, then yeah, why not?  But looking at the sheer numbers makes for a pretty compelling argument to do the exact opposite.  If the Wii U had a ten-to-fifteen million unit install base, I could see this being a thing.  But as of now, there's simply not enough there to warrant splitting attention span away from the other two system versions, considering that there's a vastly larger amount of money to be made by just focusing on those two platforms.

Attach rates mean absolutely nothing at all when the install bases are this disparate.  And they're not going to help anyone but the system manufacturers, which while it can indirectly help third-party publishers, it's not a requirement for them to move systems.  This ain't difficult math to do, and I hope this has shone some light on what the software sales business actually looks at from a third-party point-of-view.  Please take a cue from me and do the math yourself sometime.

Also, if you can find a better source to use than VGChartz, I'd really appreciate it if you'd fill me in on that.  I'm at a loss for the internet being good to me like that.

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