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2017 is increasingly looking like a year of major changes in the video game world.
Twelve months ago, many industry insiders were skeptical about Nintendo's next console. And Activision's "Call of Duty" was still an unstoppable beast of a franchise.
Midyear sales figures for the video game industry show two things — the staying power of hot holiday sellers and which spring releases have found a loyal audience. While the positions shift (and many titles fall off the charts) once the holiday months arrive, they're a good barometer of publisher health.
Rankings for this midyear list were taken from sales figures from January through the end of April, the most recent reporting period for market researcher The NPD Group. Due to agreements with publishers, NPD does not publicly release hard sales numbers — but the rankings show that players are eager for new experiences — while they're not quite ready to let go of some old favorites.
(Publisher: Sony) — Baseball games don't have quite the appeal among gamers as football and soccer titles. In fact, Sony is the only company making them these days. (Electronic Arts shuttered its "MVP Baseball" in 2005.) But the sales dominance of the PlayStation 4 has helped push "MLB 17" onto this year's list. It will certainly drop off before the end of the year, but its strong performance in the first half of the year is still notable.
(Publisher: Activision Blizzard) — "Infinite Warfare" was a troubled "Call of Duty" title from the moment it made its debut, with fans blasting the debut trailer for deviating too far from the franchise's roots. That reaction has seemingly impacted catalog sales. Typically, the previous year's "COD" game is at or near the top of the midyear sales list. This year it's near the bottom. Activision hopes this year's "Call of Duty: WWII" gets a warmer reaction.
(Publisher: Take-Two Interactive Software) — The sports world used to be the sole domain of Electronic Arts, but the 1999 launch of the first "NBA 2K" changed the game. Today, the franchise is one of Take-Two's most profitable — and has a fan base that buys each new installment regularly throughout the year. In recent months, Take-Two and the NBA have partnered on an esports league that will continue to bolster the public profile of "NBA 2K."
(Publisher: Take-Two Interactive Software) — It is nothing less than astonishing that a nearly four-year-old game, first released before the current generation of consoles came out, is still one of the top-selling titles in the industry — even if that game is "Grand Theft Auto." It's the gift that keeps on giving for Take-Two, with life-to-date sales of more than 80 million units. The game not only has a compelling single-player element, but developer Rockstar is regularly adding multiplayer components to keep players engaged.
(Publisher: Capcom) – The horror franchise is always a favorite among players, but the most recent version had a special appeal for PlayStation 4 owners: The entire title could be played in virtual reality through the PlayStation VR headset. That nudged some buyers who normally might not have picked up a copy, but the big draw was the game received the franchise's best review scores in 12 years.
(Publisher: Electronic Arts) — "Andromeda" did not get the same critical love as "Resident Evil." In fact, many fans were disappointed with the game. But previous entries in the series carried such goodwill that it still managed to rack up impressive sales in the first half of the year. Don't look for a follow-up anytime soon, though. Electronic Arts has reportedly put subsequent sequels in the franchise on ice.
(Publisher: Sony) — Sony's PlayStation 4-exclusive open-world action/role-playing game had one of the best debuts of any new franchise in the company's history. Sony says the game sold 3.4 million units worldwide, virtually guaranteeing that Aloy, the hunter/archer living in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by robots, will get a sequel.
(Publisher: Nintendo) — How popular is this long-awaited open-world "Zelda" game? So popular that it outsold the console it runs on. Worldwide, the game sold 2.76 million copies of the Nintendo Switch version of the game through March 31, according to Nintendo. The Switch, in that same time period, sold 2.74 million units. Whatever the reason, the game has certainly earned the success. It's one of the most highly rated games of all time by critics. And it's so loaded with surprises and solid gameplay that it's easy to get lost in Hyrule, the game's mythical world, for 100 hours or more.
(Publisher: Ubisoft) — Ubisoft lands a one-two punch at the top of the midyear sales list with this hack-and-slash fighting game that pitted Vikings against samurais against knights. While the multiplayer elements faced some criticism, fans appreciated that the game rewarded patience, rather than letting people simply mash buttons on their controller randomly and still win fights.
(Publisher: Ubisoft) — Ubisoft described "Wildlands" as the biggest open-world game it has ever made. And fans quickly embraced it. Players join a special operations unit and use real-world military weapons against enemies in a variety of environments, ranging from dense forests to salt flats. The multiplayer component, which allowed players to play cooperatively, was especially popular. Perhaps most impressive about the game's top sales ranking, though, is the fact that it didn't hit shelves until March 7 of this year.