Boom Blox bad breaks?
July 01, 2008
I don't often focus on sales figures for games, but I'm particularly mystified by the case of Boom Blox. According to several published sources - and verified by NPD data - Boom Blox sold a disappointing 60,000 units in the U.S. during its first month of release. VGChartz, whose figures have come under scrutiny lately, reports a number closer to 90,000.
Excellent puzzle games like Zack & Wiki have sold even fewer copies in their first month, so I can't say I'm shocked by Boom Blox' performance. If a meaningful correlation between game quality and game sales exists, I've never seen it. And it's always possible the game will have legs and continue to sell in the months to come. I hope so, because Boom Blox is a big hit at my house, and every person I've showed it to has enjoyed it immensely - new and veteran gamers alike.
What mystifies me about Boom Blox is the Steven Spielberg connection. Nobody knows about it. In my utterly unscientific attempt to understand why this game has flown so far under the radar, I haven't come across a single local Wii owner who knew Spielberg was involved in making a video game. Wasn't that supposed to be a big deal? Wasn't Spielberg's name supposed to draw in at least a tiny sliver of the millions of people who know nothing about Will Wright or Shigeru Miyamoto, but associate Steven Spielberg with fun family entertainment?
I think I had it backwards. I assumed a game like Boom Blox - which has nothing obvious going for it (bad title, bad box art, bad release date, uknown new IP) - would rely on Spielberg's name and involvement to build awareness and interest in the game, particularly among casual gamer Wii owners. Certainly when it was first announced, EA pushed Spielberg's name in every announcement and preview, suggesting he had real input in the overall design.
But as far as I can tell (again, very unscientific observation), most owners of Boom Blox bought the game on the recommendation of a friend, an online review, or in the case of two people I know, from playing it hands-on in the store. Spielberg's involvement was no factor at all, and my guess is that plenty of people are enjoying the game right now unaware of the Spielberg connection.
I'd be curious to hear people's opinions on the failure of Boom Blox to make a splash. Is it the "kiddie" graphical style? Are console puzzle games out of fashion? Another case of third-party-itis on a Nintendo platform? Too many other big games released at the same time?
But I'm equally curious to know why the Spielberg connection seemed to evaporate at release. Maybe I'm naive about these things, but a few prime time commercials featuring Mr. Hollywood himself saying "Hey, I've teamed up with Nintendo and EA to make a really cool game for the Wii that you can play with your whole family. Look what you cand do!" Cut to gameplay footage with Spielberg taking on a kid, a dad, E.T. - heck, bring on the cast of Schindler's List. Okay, maybe not, but you get the point.
Surely EA wanted Spielberg onboard because his notoriety would sell more games. What went wrong?