In its first week on the market, the long-awaited evolution game, Spore, from Electronic Arts and The Sims creator Will Wright seems to be holding its own at retail.
In interviews with retailers across the country, there is ample anecdotal evidence that the game is doing well, especially for a PC title. However, its initial sales don't appear to be in the same ballpark as massive hits like Grand Theft Auto IV, from Rockstar Games, Guitar Hero III, from Activision or Wii Fit, from Nintendo.
There are no official sales numbers available yet, as industry analyst NPD won't likely release such information until the end of September or early October, and Electronic Arts itself said it relies on NPD for its sales data.
But in cities across the U.S., Spore definitely seems to have struck a chord with gamers, though it is unclear if the game's strong initial sales will hold up in the coming weeks and months.
"The day it came out, we were sold out (within an hour)," said Douglas Shepard, who works at a San Francisco GameStop store. But "I'm willing to bet that it is going to go slower at this point, because the big hype around its release has passed."
Shepard added that he thinks the game's sales this weekend and next week will say a lot about whether Spore can continue to command a significant audience over time.
For EA, there's a lot riding on the game. It first announced Spore in 2005, and in the interim, delayed its release several times. It was first supposed to come out in 2006, then in 2007, and then earlier in 2008. But it locked in its September 7 launch date several months ago and in recent weeks, EA looked ready to put a lot of muscle into promoting the game.
And no wonder. It is the latest from Will Wright, the industry genius behind not only The Sims--the best-selling PC game of all-time--but also SimCity and other big titles.
And given its theme--evolution--as well as its innovative creature editor, many people have been expecting very big things from Spore.
Its initial reviews have largely been good, though not superlative. And some people wonder whether its scientific theme may make it a bit too wonky for mass audiences.
Still, there seems to be a lot of excitement behind Spore.
"We did pre-sales before it came out, and there were tons of people interested in it," said Shane, the media specialist at a Best Buy store in Milwaukee. "On Sunday (when the game launched), there were about 50 people waiting outside" to buy it.
Tyler Block, the manager of a Game Crazy store in Las Vegas, said his store sold out its initial allotment of 15 copies of the game in a couple of hours, and has nearly gone through a second shipment of 15 it received shortly afterward.
"We see people of all ages picking it up," Block said. "It's appealing to a lot of people."
But Block agreed that it's too early to tell how the game's sales will hold up.
"The verdict's still out on that," Block said. But "I'm a big fan, and I'd like to see it continue selling, and it hasn't slowed down yet."
And while Spore didn't produce midnight madness-like first-day and ongoing sales, Block said that the game--which is available on PC and Macintosh--is doing well for those platforms.
"It's not on (the) level (of GTA IV)," he said, "but still, it's rare to see a PC title do this well these days."