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Forget Day One, it's the long-tail that determines triple-A success

Weekly roundup: EA, Ubisoft, Activision and Take-Two post latest financial reports

If you ever needed proof that the big really are just getting bigger, then just look at this week's glut of financial reports.

With the notable exception of Activision - a publisher hit by falls to its Skylanders business and the absence of a major Destiny launch this year - the games industry's triple-A super powers all enjoyed an impressive set of results.

EA, driven by the massive success of Battlefront, Madden and FIFA, continues to post profit growth. The firm is another one that's enjoying strong longer-tail engagement of its bigger IP, which means the company is capable of riding relatively disappointing launches such as Mirror's Edge Catalyst and Titanfall 2 (although that last title wasn't part of this report's figures), which explains why its profits are up despite missing its sales targets for the quarter.

Ubisoft is in the same position, despite a lack of releases, the firm has posted strong results thanks to the continued consumer support for The Division and Rainbow Six: Siege. That last game in particular is quite an achievement. It launched with a muted marketing campaign following the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, and suffered largely ineffectual sales as a result. But it has since attracted 10m registered users and is now amongst the publisher's more successful IP. A case study to follow, perhaps, for the recent disappointing launch of Titanfall 2.

As a result of Rainbow Six's success, it's no surprise that Ubisoft played down the importance of pre-orders in its post-earnings call.

And then there's Take-Two. The publisher posted another quarter of decent figures on the back of one of its busiest ever release periods (seven game launches in six weeks, although the majority of those titles were not part of its latest results).

Take-Two was a little more forthcoming with its sales figures, and highlights the power these giants have in launching big brands. Mafia III has sold 4.5m units into stores, which means it is on-course to surpass the commercial performance of its predecessor (which sold 5m) - although how many more units will be ordered by retail remains to be seen.

Just as impressive are the sales of Civlization VI. The game has already sold 1m copies to consumers, and you have to wonder how well the game would have charted if digital data was shared with the charts companies.

WWE and NBA is also showing growth (the latter posting record sales), but the real secret to Take-Two's commercial rise? Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto Online. That digital game, funding by microtransactions, grew again, some three years since it first launched.

It all highlights, if there was any doubt, that the triple-A industry's reliance on big day one numbers is coming to an end. Live service, DLC and long-term engagement is the only way to succeed in the triple-A world today - a world that only a select few can afford to compete in.

Other news on this week

Gamestop was disappointed by the sales of October's big games

App Annie predicts that games will control over $100m of the mobile app market

Zynga post Q3 loss of $41m but beats guidance

167 games received tax relief from UK Government over the last 12 months

Steam instructs developers to not use renders or artwork or marketing materials as screenshots

Sports Interactive boss receives death threats after localisation disagreement

Sony's Q2 earnings hit by falling PS4 price

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Christopher Dring avatar
Christopher Dring: Chris is a 17-year media veteran specialising in the business of video games. And, erm, Doctor Who