It was highlighted as a fine example of the absurdity of the modern industry: a month after Crystal Dynamics' Tomb Raider reboot was released on PS3, 360 and PC, publisher Square Enix claimed it was "disappointed" in the 3.4 million units sold in that relatively short period of time.
"We put a considerable amount of effort in polishing and perfecting the game content for these titles, receiving extremely high Metacritic scores," the publisher said in its financial statement for the period, and referring to not only Tomb Raider, but also Sleeping Dogs and Hitman Absolution, both of which also came in under expectations but both still sold well over a million. "We were very disappointed to see that the high scores did not translate to actual sales performance, which is where we see the substantial variance in operation profit/loss against the forecast."
Whizz forward to today, meanwhile, and it seems that Lara Croft's high-profile reimagining is now being considered a success after selling less than double its month-one sales in the intervening year since release, but still, finally, exceeding its initial forecast of 5 million units sold -- though it's worth noting that the game has expanded to two additional platforms thanks to the next-gen "Definitive Edition" since then.
"By the end of this month, we will surpass 6 million units for our Tomb Raider reboot," said Crystal Dynamics studio head Darrell Gallagher in an open letter to fans. "Having achieved profitability back in 2013, Tomb Raider has exceeded profit expectations and continues to make significant contributions to our overall financial performance. At launch we set franchise records for the fastest-selling day-one and month-one in Tomb Raider history. With the positive word of mouth and continued commercial momentum it's great to see Tomb Raider on course to become the best-selling game in the history of the franchise."
Day-one and week-one sales are considered enormously important in today's industry -- much like opening weekends for movies -- but if this situation shows us anything, it's that some games have a very long tail and can continue to sell well after their initial release. In fact, given the prevalence of the "I'll wait for a Steam sale" mentality among PC gamers -- not to mention the fact that many prospective purchasers prefer to wait until all the DLC is available (or a "Game of the Year Edition" is released) for a high-profile game, it could be clearly and convincingly argued that day-one sales are perhaps not the best indicator of "success" that some publishers think they are.
Crystal Dynamics is now working on a follow-up to the Tomb Raider reboot, but details are practically non-existent at present. "We are looking forward to building on the success and lessons learned from the reboot to continue redefining and setting new benchmarks for Tomb Raider in the years to come," said Gallagher of the sequel.