Blizzard’s ultimate attack causes a storm that sucks dollars out of your bank account.
Overwatch was the No. 1 premium-priced PC game for digital revenues in May, according to SuperData Research. On console, it was No. 5 for overall digital sales. That includes both microtransactions and full-game downloads from Battle.net, Xbox Store, and PlayStation Store. That was enough to generate $269 million in revenues last month for Blizzard Entertainment’s excellent class-based team shooter. The gaming industry is worth $99.6 billion a year, and SuperData reports that digital sales across console, PC, mobile, and the web produced $6 billion in May alone. That’s up 11 percent thanks in part to Overwatch, which sells for $40 on PC and $60 on console and was the fastest-selling game last month.
SuperData extrapolates these figures by tracking point-of-sale data from publishers, developers, and distribution channels. Right now, most of that information points to the health of Overwatch. SuperData chief executive and analyst Joost van Dreunen says that the game is dominating the market.
“Newcomer this month Overwatch tops May’s revenue rankings with $269 million in earnings across PC and console,” he said. “The new shooter game is proving to be a hit among online spectators and is currently the fifth most commonly streamed title across livestreaming channels.”
Overwatch has clearly caught on with an enormous audience, and that has led to it burying some of its competition. For example, 2K Games and developer Gearbox launched Battleborn in a similar window to Blizzard’s shooter, but most people went with the World of Warcraft company.
“[2K parent company] Take-Two’s Battleborn had a significantly poorer performance [compared to Overwatch,” said van Dreunen. “[It earned] an estimated $11 million from digital revenues.”
While it looks like Battleborn has already come and gone, Overwatch is just getting started.
“Despite not being free-to-play, Overwatch is rolling out a long-term monetization strategy by offering a hefty quantity of vanity items, including skins and graffiti tags,” said van Dreunen.
Overwatch features in-game loot boxes similar to the gacha mechanics that are popular in Japanese mobile games. As you gain experience points, you raise your player level, and each new level gives you a free loot box that may contain new looks for your character, different emotes, or more. But you can also purchase bundles of loot boxes using real cash. The highest in-game purchase is 50 of the gacha crates for $40 — the same price as the games itself.
We’ve seen these kinds of microtransaction mechanics in full-priced games before like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and now Overwatch is proving the model can work on a huge scale.
Edit: This story’s original headline implied that Overwatch made $269 million from in-app purchases alone. That’s not correct. That figure includes both in-app purchases and full-game digital downloads on console.