In July 2018, a sprite based, turn based, pixel style JRPG by Square for a Nintendo cartridge based system topped the NPD software charts, while said pixel based home console was the best selling console for the month. You’d have been forgiven for thinking you had stepped out of a time machine and into the 1990s, because it makes no sense. A single player old school turn based JRPG? With pixel art graphics that distinctly eschew modern aesthetics and graphical sensibilities? A third party game on a Nintendo system? And it actually did well? Surely you are joking!
But we’re not, and it happened. Octopath Traveler‘s triumph on the NPD charts was even more impressive, because it didn’t have the benefit of being attached to a known IP such as Final Fantasy or Persona– it was a completely new thing, with an odd sounding name, that managed to beat every other game out. It did so without digital sales being tracked, while they were for most other games on the chart.
"In July 2018, a sprite based, turn based, pixel style JRPG by Square for a Nintendo cartridge based system topped the NPD software charts, while said pixel based home console was the best selling console for the month. You’d have been forgiven for thinking you had stepped out of a time machine and into the 1990s."
Octopath‘s performance, and indeed, the performance of the Nintendo Switch and most of its games in general, then, serves as a reminder to us all- great games sell, and systems that establish themselves as being capable of providing great experiences on a routine basis also sell well. The Switch, while having ceded ground to the PS4 for the last few months, before reclaiming the top spot in July, has consistently held on to strong sales regardless- this is on the back of its smaller multitude of new releases, yes, but also because of its extraordinarily strong back catalog, coupled with the confidence people have in the system to deliver great quality content on an ongoing basis.
Of course, the PS4 also needs to be noted here- the system has seen sales increase year on year in its fifth year on the market, and it achieved this solely on the back of consistently delivering high quality games one after the other that you cannot find anywhere else on the market, games such as the generation defining God of War.
And that is the common thread between the PS4 and Switch- whether it be God of War and Persona or Breath of the Wild and Octopath, both systems have systematically established themselves as hubs for quality content that’s unlike anything else on the market. In an era when most third parties are chasing the multiplayer, games as a service trend, and companies like EA are all too happy to decry single player games, these systems have shown that having proper, quality single player content can and does lead to success. Maybe not all the time, but can anyone honestly say every multiplayer game ever made is a guaranteed success? If it was, would Lawbreakers and Battleborn have been the dismal failures they were?
"Of course, the PS4 also needs to be noted here- the system has seen sales increase year on year in its fifth year on the market, and it achieved this solely on the back of consistently delivering high quality games one after the other that you cannot find anywhere else on the market, games such as the generation defining God of War. "
With the rest of the market providing multiplayer content primarily such as Fortnite, systems that have something in addition to that, something different from that, primarily benefit- which is true of both, the PS4 and the Switch. And is presumably the reason that both systems have continued to top the NPD alternatingly for months now- it has been a very long time since Xbox One took first place.
Which brings me to the next point- there is a compulsion on customers’ part to buy the PS4 and the Nintendo Switch because of the promise of quality exclusive content, past, present, and future. At this point, buyers around the world are privy to the fact that both systems will be host to high quality games that you can’t find or play anywhere else. These exclusives are what are driving sales for those systems- contrary to what many will tell you, exclusives do has stated as much in as many words matter. And it’s not just me who thinks that, NPD Analyst Mat Piscatella , noting that multiplatform games usually benefit all systems, and the differentiation comes from exclusives.
This is something I have been screaming myself hoarse on for years, but at long last, it looks like the market is starting to come around on the age old common sense wisdom that single player games sell great if they are well made and well marketed, and that exclusive games sell consoles. On the former front, Bethesda, CD Projekt RED, Square Enix, and Capcom are third parties that continue to invest in high quality single player content, while others such as Warner Bros. and Ubisoft have doubled down on cracking out high grade AAA single player stuff. On the latter front, we have Sony and Nintendo continuing to do their thing, and even Microsoft coming around to putting out high quality first party exclusive content for Xbox- they’ve doubled the strength of their first party, committed to not making the new studios franchise factories, and to giving them full creative freedom, and also mentioned that they will invest in more single player content.
"At long last, it looks like the market is starting to come around on the age old common sense wisdom that single player games sell great if they are well made and well marketed, and that exclusive games sell consoles. "
This is good news- all of this is good news, epitomized, of course, by the success of a high budget retro style pixel turn based single player JRPG exclusive to a system by a third party, because it brings all these talking points together. But it’s good news because it’s validation that single player games are not going away. Exclusives are not going away. First party games are not going away. It’s validation that while the market may chase the next major multiplayer game trend, there will always be high quality single player content, because it seems like even in the age of Fortnite and Overwatch, Octopath Traveler and God of War can still sell well. Breath of the Wild and Persona 5 can still sell well. Sure, multiplayer games may make more money a lot of the times- but there are only a limited number of multiplayer games the market can accommodate at a time, after all.
Octopath may not have been the first game that proved any of this, of course- but it’s the latest in a long line of evidence towards that end. As long as it catches the attention of more publishers and developers.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.