Do people still love difficult games like Sekiro?

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a difficult game. A third-person action adventure title, it was released in March 2019 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. It is developed by FromSoftware, led by Hidetaka Miyazaki, who also directed the now famous Bloodborne and Souls series.

That is a pretty long lineage of games that are reputed for their unforgiving difficulty.

Hence, you can anticipate what’s about to go down in this shinobi epic. In fact, one of the first few things I read about Sekiro was that it’s going to be difficult. Not just any difficult, but why-am-I-getting-killed-by-regular-NPCs difficult.

*cries in deathblows*

This got me thinking though – are difficult games like Sekiro still loved by people? As far as trends in difficulties go, they seem to now err on the side of caution, choosing to be less challenging rather than running the risk of giving players an overly frustrating experience. This is always a fine balance because a cakewalk would be an equally bad experience.

Personally, over the years, I felt a general dip in difficulty across the board for most games.

This is most recently seen in Kingdom Hearts 3, which has also been echoed by others. Games such as Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom had to even patch more challenging settings because the defaults were simply too easy.

We’ve also seen in-game features and enhancements making it easier for players to enjoy games without breaking a controller.

For instance, know you’re a casual gamer? Locking in a story-focused difficulty mode as seen in God of War makes life easier right from the onset. In case you find yourself dying too often after selecting a difficulty mode, there are now options to change game difficulty mid-game as seen in the latest Resident Evil 2 remake. Also, frequent auto-save checkpoints in more linear titles such as Uncharted are also a lifesaver.

So, would a game like Seriko that does the complete opposite of trends sell?

At this point, let’s take a step back and appreciate how difficult Sekiro is. It has only 1 standard difficulty mode (hard AF), save points that literally respawn enemies when used, and a mechanism that penalizes main character death. I’m guessing there are likely more unwanted surprises which I’ve not advanced further in-game to know of yet.

Sekiro unseen aid game mechanic
You will need more than just Unseen Aid in this game (Photo: Gamerevolution)

VentureBeat, PCGamesN, and Eurogamer reported that Sekiro sold an impressive 2 million copies in under 2 weeks.

True to my original intention of starting Gatadame, I was curious to use data and benchmark this performance with other titles. Thanks to VGChartz, I’ve compiled week-on-week sales up to week 10 for some of the popular titles released the past few years.

There’s an exponential decay relationship for title sales which makes sense given the nature of the product. Substantial amounts of brand marketing would’ve been teased literally years before launch and the bulk of the consumers would’ve either pre-ordered or are ready to purchase once it is released.

TitleRed Dead Redemption 2Spider-ManLegend of Zelda: Breath of the WildGod of WarAssassin’s Creed Odyssey
Week 14,610,9642,422,2231,177,1822,261,4161,015,572
Week 21,994,3061,130,727328,646780,846338,114
Week 31,374,514684,686183,855339,866186,804
Week 4939,837413,294204,923228,907134,932
Week 5853,779304,995208,275147,424100,580
Week 6776,342221,277149,019132,13478,425
Week 7754,403164,798122,750109,837127,372
Week 8893,225134,18481,851115,996241,430
Week 91,037,426118,690122,204123,496244,173
Week 10705,407114,347114,88688,859147,542
10 Weeks13,940,2035,709,2212,693,5914,328,7812,614,944

The above data are platform-specific but bear in mind that Sekiro sales were reported across all platforms, so we’ll have to try to convert it to a platform-specific number later for a fairer comparison. I made a few observations for the above AAA titles.

(1) 10 weeks sales are between 200% to 300% of week 1 sales, and (2) week 2 sales are between 30% to 45% of week 1 sales.

For Sekiro, let’s assume – (1) 10 weeks sales to be 250% of week 1 sales and (2) week 2 sales to be 40% of week 1 sales.

Solving simultaneously, we estimate that Sekiro sold 1.4 million copies in its first week and will go on to sell 3.5 million copies in 10 weeks across all platforms.

PC and console revenues are typically split equally but within the console segment, we do see twice the amount of PS4 sales to Xbox One, so I’ll split this 50%-33%-17% across.

Based on these calculations, Sekiro is estimated to sell approximately 1.2 million copies on the PS4 in the first 10 weeks.

This result ranks it among the top 50 titles based on 2018 yearly sales data. Also, it places very close to the lifetime sales of its predecessor Bloodborne and other titles like Detroit: Become Human and the Shadow of the Colossus remake.

In conclusion, it is definitely a decent turnover for a new IP that goes against the norms of titles today. Given that 8th gen console penetration would also be higher as time goes by, the potential player base is larger so I would anticipate that Sekiro should outsell Bloodborne in its lifetime.

Featured photo by Playstation

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