Pop-Culture Predictions #1

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| January 14, 2022

Hi, I’m Drew, a big nerd who happens to run a hybrid marketing and production company. I lead content and brand strategy and use data to build insights that inform our clients’ business decisions. In this weekly series, I’m going to pick a couple of pop-culture IPs and make a bold prediction based on past experience, real-time data, and a boatload of moxie. Here we go…

Prediction – The Uncharted movie will underperform in ticket sales.

I want to be wrong here. I’m a big fan of the games, and I think the world could use a fun, light-hearted adventure film. But no one is talking about Uncharted online, and it looks like it is destined to underperform. Take Tom Holland’s last tentpole film Spider-Man: No Way Home. If you do just a simple Google Trends analysis on searches for Spider-Man vs. Uncharted, the differences are striking. Uncharted is basically flatline compared to Spider-Man. Even at its highest search peak in October (see chart below), Uncharted still didn’t match Spider-Man. More surprising is that even after the Uncharted trailer drop, the peak is still lower than October’s search. Interest seems to be going down, not skyrocketing up as Spider-Man clearly did when that film launched.

According to the New York Times, the Uncharted movie reportedly cost $120 million to make. So this needs an opening weekend of over $90 million and have enough legs overseas to warrant a sequel. In comparison, before No Way Home‘s insane $260 million opening haul, Venom had the highest pandemic opening weekend at $90.1 million.

Uncharted Interest vs Spider-Man Interest over the last 5 years

Bottom Line: Uncharted needs an incredible marketing push in these last few weeks to drive an insane amount of buzz towards this film to drive people to theaters. Otherwise, I suspect people are Tom Holland-ed out and are willing to wait till this hits the streaming services in 90 days.

Prediction – God of War Ragnarök will not release in 2022.

God of War Ragnarök was originally announced to be released in 2021 (note, it wasn’t) and is now rumored to be releasing in September of 2022. Let me be clear: there is no way this game comes out in 2022. COVID variants will continue to plow through the vaccinated and non-vaccinated developers who will need to take weeks off to recover, slowing the production of these AAA game titles down to a crawl. The good news is this can often lead to a slower pace and better working environment for devs and writers alike. It will likely be pushed from September to late November before finally letting everyone know that this will be a March 2023 release. Overall, more than 40 games were delayed last year. Here’s a quick list of some of the bigger games that got delayed in 2021:

  • Returnal – Delayed a month
  • Deathloop – Delayed 2 times from November 2020
  • Kena: Bridge of Spirits – Delayed one month
  • Back 4 Blood – Delayed 4+ months
  • Battlefield 2042 – Delayed suprisingly only a few weeks
  • Halo Infinite – Delayed almost an entire year orginally supposed to launch with Xbox Series X in 2020
  • Destiny 2: The Witch Queen – Delayed almost an entire year
  • Elden Ring – Delayed several months
  • Horizon Forbidden West – Delayed seveal months
  • Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga – Delayed an entire year
  • Gotham Knights – Delayed from 2021 to 2022
  • Gran Torismo 7 – Delayed from early 2021 to 2022
  • Hogwarts Legacy – Delayed an entire year
  • Lord of the Rings: Gollum – Delayed from 2021 to 2022

Bottom Line: COVID isn’t going away, and, for the foreseeable future, it will continue to have a tremendous effect on game studios’ ability to deliver on their promised launch windows.

Prediction – Xbox will sell more consoles than PlayStation in 2022.

Sorry, Sony, but this next generation might belong to Microsoft. I personally believe that Sony, and specifically PlayStation, makes better hardware that plays nice with more developers. But Xbox understands gamers better. Their Game Pass is a far superior fishing lure to get gamers to switch to Xbox and stay there, with constant access to new games for no extra cost. Couple that with the smart pricing structure on the elite Series X and the cheaper Series S console, and it looks like Xbox might have a winner on its hands. You can see in the chart below that in the last 12 months more people in the US have searched for Xbox over PlayStation by a large margin, especially during the holiday season. The big X-factor here (pun intended) is the global chip shortages and Microsoft’s ability to get their next-gen consoles into people’s homes faster. The demand is there for both platforms, but the delays in availability may make people choose to buy whichever next-gen console is available once they’ve got the saved up cash to buy.

Search interest of Playstation vs Xbox over the last 12 months.

Bottom Line: Halo Infinite, Xbox Game Pass, Smart Pricing, and better advertising are clearly winning the day for Microsoft and Xbox in terms of interest but supply issues may make this a closer race than it appears.

I’ll be back every few weeks with some more predictions. The value of a prediction is not accuracy (though it is better to be right than wrong), but the reasoning and conversation that the prediction catalyzes. Let me know if you think I’m right or wrong in the comments below!

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7 comments on “Pop-Culture Predictions #1”

  1. I agree with you about The Uncharted Movie underperforming. This kind of movie would have done well if released during the summer. Currently with Covid trends the US is getting hard with ongoing waves of infected. It’s not going to be a great turnout for the box office.

    You may be right about the God of War release, but only time will tell.

  2. Conversely, think about what the TLOU series on HBO will be like. What better times to release a show centered on the premise of if you go outside infected people can kill you? COVID-ceps. COrdyVID. Fun times.

    1. I agree. Although we are still getting casting updates so it sounds like they are still filming. You typically need 6 months for post production on a series this VFX laden. I wouldn’t expect to see TLOU until 2023. I wonder if we’ll be ready to watch a pandemic series then?

  3. I’ve read the MSFT/Sony take and I maybe disagree a bit. There may be some bias on my part (I worked at PlayStation), but they gained share over PS in 360/2 gen because they came to market something like 15 months ahead of expectations, and ran up the numbers. Once the PS2 launched, it has been all downhill for MSFT ever since. And on the current gen PS has pretty much already doubled them up on sales volume. And that’s with like-to-like versions of PS being at least $100 more expensive.

    1. You’re probably right. The amount of marketshare PS has over Xbox is tremendous. But something feels different about this round of console launches. It’s clear the PS is the better machine but Xbox has made some really clever moves with Gamepass and Halo multiplayer being free and a cheaper console if Microsoft could get out ahead of the chip shortages and produce more consoles before Playstation can I think this could be the year for Xbox. Again could totally be wrong here… but it wouldn’t be a prediction if I knew I was right.

  4. I found myself saying well duh, when reading these. No seriously I think you hit the nail on the head with all of these. The Hype that the PS5 still has is mind blowing to me. Sony is releasing PS4 versions of all known PS5 games and back peddling console exclusivity. People still see the PS5 as this elite and exotic item to have.

    Console generations have always been interesting. I personally hope they Flip every time. PS2 was clearly or Xbox, but MS made a name for itself and developed infrastructures that we all use today. The 360 was over the PS3, cause Sony shot themselves in the foot with the price and difficulty developing for the system. IF the 360 had not had the red ring of death, it probably would have never faltered.

    The PS4 beat out the One easily because MS’s marketing for the one was atrocious and they lost focus.

    Now Xbox is Swinging for the fences and coming back HARD.

    I don’t see God of War coming out this year, and I think the Uncharted movie will be very very OK.

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