The Video Game Movie ‘Curse’ is mentioned when geeks lament over the lack of popular game to movie adaptions. Do Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed or even Rampage make your top 25 movie list?
Maybe it’s an actor thing? Perhaps it’s frightfully hard to take a character that is controlled by the gamer in on genre and have it portrayed by someone else in the role.
One way to explore that hypothesis might be to flip it around and ask ‘What percentage of best selling video games have celebrities in them?’.
That’s what Logitech and British retailer Currys did, publishing their research on TechTalk in a handy table and write-up.
Celebrities in games
The data suggests that celebrities in computer games don’t help them sell any better.
Only 15% of the top 50 feature a well-known gaming voice actor. By that, I mean voices like Nolan North and Troy Baker. If we limit our definition to ‘Hollywood A-lister’ then that figure becomes a dismal 9%.
Rockstar are an interesting mini-case study in this department. Samuel L. Jackon, James Woods, Danny Dyer and Ice-T all feature in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004) and Michael Madsen and Kyle MacLachlan feature in Grand Theft Auto III (2001). You’ll struggle to find a more recent example because now Rockstar actively avoids Hollywood talent.
Dan Houser, the co-founder of Rockstar, told Vulture;
[W]e don’t bring in name actors anymore, because of their egos and, most important of all, because we believe we get a better sense of immersion using talented actors whose voices you don’t recognize.”
If celeb involvement doesn’t help sell games then what does? There are some stats in Currys research that give us some clues.
Getting gender right
How many of the top 50 best-selling computer games focus on a female-only story? None of them. 0%. Ziltch.
Games like Tomb Raider and Horizon Zero Dawn, which do focus on a female protagonist, come close to breaking into the top 50, but they don’t make it.
In contrast, 38% of the top 50 best-selling games focus on male leads.
The best way to do design an internationally successful computer game, though, according to Currys, is to let players choose their character gender. 48% of the top 50 do that.
It might be worth noting that in 12% of games in the top 50 best-sellers list, the main character isn’t even human. Does gender matter then?
The table Currys and Logitech put together slots each of the top 50 games into different styles. According to that classification the top three styles of game are;
- Action-adventure – 30% of games in the top 50
- Shooters – 18% of games in the top 50
- Role-playing – 14% of games in the top 50.
In contrast, games like arcades and puzzles barely make a list at all. Tetris, of course, being the exception as it heads the list with an incredible 170m in sales. Minecraft is classified as an action-adventure and is in second place with 154m sales. Meanwhile, Grand Theft Auto V isn’t classified as a driving game but as another action-adventure (and I think that’s probably right) and takes the third place spot with 100m in sales.
Game design tips
Analysis of the top 50 best-selling computer games, therefore, suggests design an action-adventure, a shooter or a roleplaying game. Let your players pick a gender for their character and don’t worry about paying for a celeb voice.
At a time when sexuality, gender, sex and identify are hot topics and a relevant part of our cultural evolution, it is interesting to see gender choice, statistically speaking, is the most significant factor in top 50 success.