Released on Halloween last year, Fallout 3 quickly became a critically lauded sensation.
The Xbox 360 edition enjoys a Metacritic rating of 93 per cent (91 on PC and PS3), and the game has claimed countless awards, including game of the year from Gamesradar, Gamespy, Official Xbox, IGN, Gamasutra and at the Game Developer Choice Awards. It was also nominated in five categories at the BAFTA video game awards in March.
Yet Fallout 3 was more than just a critical hit. In just a week, Bethesda shipped 4.7 million copies of the game in the US and UK – representing a retail value of $300 million. It’s a remarkable achievement when you consider there hadn’t been a traditional Fallout game released for ten years.
In fact, including the game’s spin-offs, Fallout 3 outsold the combined life-time sales of all the other Fallout titles in just seven days. And this during a release period that saw the likes of Gears of War 2, Call of Duty: World at War, Fable II, LittleBigPlanet and World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King hit retail shelves.
‘OUT OF THIS WORLD
So perhaps it was no surprise that the title claimed the Sales Triumph accolade at last month’s MCV Awards.
“It's always nice to receive positive recognition and to receive this from your customers and peers is fantastic,” says Bethesda’s sales director Paul Oughton. “I had it down as a one-in- three chance between us and two others, so put £20 on each.
“The key to Fallout 3’s success started with Oblivion. The market already had belief in the ability of Bethesda to produce great games. There was a huge amount of goodwill extended to us and retail had the faith to support our aspirations. In the end, the code delivered, the faith paid off and we all have a lovely warm feeling.”
Despite the game’s first week sales, the team at Bethesda had to contend with one of the most congested video game release schedules in history. To ensure the game didn’t disappear into obscurity, the publisher spent much of its whopping £2.5 million UK marketing spend on a campaign that lasted right up to Christmas.
“What we learnt with Fallout is that even with a triple-A rated game you have to compete effectively at retail, not just at launch but in the run-up to Christmas as well,” adds Oughton.
2009 rolled around, and it became clear that Bethesda still hadn’t finished with Fallout 3, as it unveiled three downloadable content packs. The first, Operation Anchorage, arrived in January.
The Pitt followed in March, while Broken Steel hit Xbox Live and PC just last week. These DLC packs are also set to be bundled together onto disc and sold through retail channels.
“As a brand extension, DLC gives consumers a longer playing experience and helps maintain the profile, sales and shelf-life of the original game,” explains Oughton.
“Outside the UK, online connectivity rates are not as high, so in these territories the boxed product is a primary route to market.
"Even in the UK a large element of consumers still want a tactile product in a box. Fallout managed to break out from purely a hardcore of gamers and it’s this broader market that is less likely to download.”
Fallout 3 has come a long way from its Game of the Show performance at E3 last year, but there’s still much more to come from the franchise. Although the initial batch of DLC is available to download, Bethesda has hinted there’s more digital content to come.
A movie and TV series have both been suggested, while a Fallout 3 spin-off named New Vegas, is set to hit retail early next year.
“We have a number of releases this year both at retail and via DLC to support and extend the brand and its lifecycle, while next year we have Fallout: New Vegas coming out,” concludes Oughton.
“Unfortunately, we canned the lingerie range and no-one liked my idea of a 17-episode TV series starring me and Sienna Miller locked in vault 101 with nothing to do but each other.”
Never mind, Paul. Maybe next year.