Last week the NPD Group, the industry standard of game-industry research firms, released its US sales figures for 2008. However, the company's top 10 game rankings only tracked individual products, or SKU (Stock Keeping Units), sold at retailers in the US.
As a result, it was unclear how two of the year's biggest rivals--Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band 2--fared against one another. Besides being multiplatform releases, the two solidly reviewed rhythm games each came in various retail configurations, such as a la carte or with one or more instruments.
Now, NPD has shared the combined US sales of both World Tour and Rock Band 2 across all platforms and SKUs. The result? The first full-band (drums, guitar/bass, and vocals) installment in Activision's billion-dollar franchise sold 3.4 million copies domestically, twice as many as Rock Band 2's 1.7 million haul. Analysts had the latter game, developed by former Tony Hawk shop Neversoft, selling nearly 1 million units in November alone.
Though the two-to-one ratio is a blowout victory in purely dollar terms, several factors play a role in World Tour's success. For one, the Guitar Hero brand is better known than Rock Band, even though the latter series is generally better received by critics. Besides being available in more retail configurations, Guitar Hero World Tour also went on sale on all platforms--the Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation 3--on October 26. By contrast, Rock Band 2 rolled out onto its console on a staggered schedule, hitting the 360 on September 14, the PS3 October 19, and the Wii and PlayStation 2 on December 18. That means that only 13 days' worth of sales on the two latter platforms--which have the biggest installed bases in the US--were recorded by NPD.