Despite controversy around both games, NetherRealm Studios' Mortal Kombat 11 and Sony Interactive Entertainment Bend Studio's Days Gone were April's first and second best-selling games, respectively.
Despite negative press coverage surrounding NetherRealm Studios' Mortal Kombat 11 and mixed reviews for Sony Interactive Entertainment Bend Studio’s Days Gone, both games charted as April 2019’s best-selling titles. Their success implies that critical media coverage does not necessarily translate to poor sales, particularly in NetherRealm’s case.
In the report, NPD revealed that Mortal Kombat 11 was April 2019's best-selling game in terms of dollar sales, with Days Gone coming in second, and MLB 19: The Show charting at third. Mortal Kombat 11 dominated across PC and consoles alike, with the title remaining each platform’s top game for April 2019. The fighting game’s success on the Nintendo Switch is particularly noteworthy, given that Nintendo first-party titles usually lead the Switch’s monthly best-selling list.
“Mortal Kombat 11 represents the first time a third-party published Nintendo Switch game was the platform's top seller in a month since Ubisoft's Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle topped the Nintendo Switch chart in September 2017,” NPD video game industry analyst Mat Piscatella said in an email obtained by GameDaily.biz. While Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts 3 remains 2019's top-selling game to date, Mortal Kombat 11 ranks at just second place, suggesting the game may become one of 2019’s most popular titles by the end of the year.
Piscatella also pointed to Days Gone’s success, noting that the game’s launch month sales “rank as the 7th highest in history for a Sony-published title.”
“After just one month in market, Days Gone is the best-selling game produced by Sony Bend Studio in lifetime revenues,” Piscatella wrote.
But both games’ success comes despite ongoing criticism and controversy. Three days after Mortal Kombat 11’s release on April 23, the Washington Post'sGene Park criticized the fighter for coming "dangerously close" to "predatory practices" with its microtransaction system. Kotaku’s Mike Fahey similarly criticized Mortal Kombat 11 for feeling “like a game that wants more money” and leaves a “very cash grabby mobile game type of taste in players’ mouths.”
Other players were furious with professional wrestler Ronda Rousey's inclusion in the game. Vice's Danielle Riendeau pointed to both her "terrible performance" as well as a history of deeply hurtful comments, including transphobic remarks and “tasteless Sandy Hook Trutherism” implying 2012’s Sandy Hook school shooting may be a hoax.
Allegations of toxic workplace conditions also emerged on Mortal Kombat 11’s release date when former NetherRealm developer James Longstreet said he "didn't sleep more than 4 hours for months" while working on 2011’s Mortal Kombat. Similar claims later emerged after past and present developers spoke with Variety, criticizing the company for a toxic workplace environment where sexual harassment and gender discrimination ran rampant. While Variety’s reporting happened after May began, Longstreet’s tweets quickly spread across Twitter and raced through the games industry on social media during Mortal Kombat 11’s launch week
Meanwhile, Days Gone was met with lukewarm reception. Reviews criticized the game for myriad issues, from its uninteresting story and repetitive gameplay to its frustrating bugs and bland post-apocalyptic setting. Twitter users similarly panned the game, with gamers ridiculing an unrealistic wedding scene in which the player character’s wife asks him to "ride me as much as you ride your bike" during their vows. The game currently sits at a Metascore of 72.
Yet despite negative coverage, both Mortal Kombat 11 and Days Gone sold particularly well. This is likely because both games had enormous marketing campaigns ensuring their success, with Days Gone shown at E3 multiple times since E3 2016, and Mortal Kombat receiving its fair share of Twitch streams, YouTube videos, ads, and fandom hype. Similarly, Mortal Kombat 11 relied on gamers’ interest in the Mortal Kombat series to push sales, whereas Days Gone had direct support from Sony.
Granted, media coverage can still significantly impact game sales. But major AAA games with pre-existing install bases are much more likely to weather poor reviews, casting controversies, or toxic workplace allegations when it comes to sales than titles from smaller, lesser-known franchises.
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