In mid-September, the newly installed president and CEO of Activision's Guitar Hero division Dan Rosensweig claimed that Guitar Hero 5 preorders were building up a seemingly insurmountable lead on its major competitor, MTV Games and Harmonix's The Beatles: Rock Band. However, the tide apparently didn't take long to turn.
As part of the NPD Group's US retail sales report today, MTV Games announced that The Beatles: Rock Band had outsold Guitar Hero 5 during September. According to figures provided by to GameSpot, The Beatles: Rock Band sold 595,000 units across the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii on September 9. Activision's Guitar Hero 5 sold 499,000 units at retail for the 360, PS3, PlayStation 2, and Wii since its September 1 launch, the firm noted.
Beyond unit sales, MTV Games also said that Xbox 360 gamers had downloaded The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" in excess of 100,000 times through September. Last month, Microsoft said that the single was officially the "fastest-selling" Rock Band track, having helped raise more than $17,000 for the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders.
Notably, The Beatles: Rock Band launched with considerable cross-promotion alongside the remastered Beatles audio catalog, a fact Electronic Entertainment Design and Research analyst Jesse Divnich attributed the sales victory to.
"In terms of Beatles outselling Guitar Hero, it simply comes down to marketing, and MTV Games spent more money than Activision on promotion and advertisement, which is a reversal from previous showdowns," Divnich told GameSpot. "Activision didn’t really go full throttle with its marketing as it has with previous Guitar Hero titles. Activision is likely holding back so it can support other music based games, such as DJ Hero and Band Hero."
Divnich went on to note that both The Beatles: Rock Band and Guitar Hero 5 "performed at respectable levels and well inside the range of expectations." However, he went on to emphasize that both games are expected to continue to perform well as the holiday shopping season continues.
Wedbush Morgan Securities' Michael Pachter also downplayed the corporate ballyhoo of The Beatles: Rock Band's sales victory, noting that neither game debuted to a particularly strong commercial reaction.
"Outselling GH5 isn’t that big of a deal, and in terms of units, they were actually quite close," he said. "What’s striking is the low overall dollar figure for the two games, which were out for almost the entire month. The two combined fell short of $100 million, and I had forecast $210 million."
Interest in The Beatles: Rock Band isn't likely to wane in the coming weeks. Harmonix today confirmed that the Fab Four's venerated Abbey Road will be available as a playable album download for the Xbox 360 and Wii on October 20, with the PS3 installment following two days later. The DLC can be had in its entirety for $16.99 (MSP 1,360) on the Xbox 360 and PS3, and individual tracks for Nintendo's console will run 200 Wii points ($2).
With "Come Together," "Something," "Octopus's Garden," "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," "Here Comes the Sun," and "The End" already included in the full game, the Abbey Road Complete Album Pack includes "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," "Oh! Darling," and "Because." Also included in the DLC is a 16-minuted Abbey Road B-side medley, which includes "You Never Give Me Your Money," "Sun King," "Mean Mr. Mustard," "Polythene Pam," "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window," "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight" and "The End."