Tomb Raider’s “Weak” Sales Are The Best First Week Sales Total In Series History

Speaking at GDC this past week, Crystal Dynamics’ Darrell Gallagher revealed that Tomb Raider‘s total first week sales not only broke the franchise record, but they also made the critically acclaimed reboot the most successful launch of 2013.

Gallagher’s comments about Tomb Raider‘s record breaking sales came during Crystal Dynamics’ GDC panel, when he stated the following:

“[Tomb Raider has] the biggest week one sales in franchise history, and we’re only a few weeks into that launch right now, and it’s been the biggest opening so far in 2013. So, we’re happy with the outcome. It’s certainly in a place where we feel like we’re on the road to achieving everything we wanted to.”

Ironically, Crystal Dynamics’ claims of Tomb Raider success come just days after the studio’s parent company and publisher, Square Enix, slammed the title as having “weak expected sales” of 3.4 million copies in just under four weeks on sale. Gallagher was asked about the seemingly contradicting statements, to which he replied, “Actuals and expectations, I guess, are two slightly different things. What I’m telling you is the actuals, and they’re communicating expectations.”

For whatever reason, exact sales numbers in the video game industry are extremely hard to come by — even when dealing with publicly traded companies, like Square Enix. With that said, we actually do have a reliable, and relatively recent, frame of reference for Tomb Raider franchise sales that puts Square Enix’s claims in an interesting perspective.

On April 22, 2009 Square Enix release a series of “Eidos Integration” slides, meant to explain the importance of the company’s recent acquisition of Eidos to their shareholders. As part of this presentation, Square Enix disclosed a sales breakdown of popular Eidos franchises. Exact sales numbers were not included in the slides, however, a provided bar graph has allowed us to generate the following sales estimates for each title in the Tomb Raider franchise:

  • 1996 – Tomb Raider – 7.1 million
  • 1997 – Tomb Raider II – 6.8 million
  • 1998 – Tomb Raider III – 5.9 million
  • 1999 – Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation – 4.6 million
  • 2000 – Tomb Raider Chronicles – 1.4 million
  • 2003 – Tomb Raider: The Angle of Darkness – 2.5 million
  • 2006 – (Crystal Dynamics first entry to the franchise) – Tomb Raider: Legend – 2.8 million
  • 2007 – Tomb Raider Anniversary – 1.3 million
  • 2008 – Tomb Raider: Underworld – 2.6 million

Obviously, these “life-to-date” sales numbers do not represent any copies sold after April 22, 2009. With that said, the three Crystal Dynamics developed games (Tomb Raider: UnderworldAnniversary, and Legend) are the only entries which would have experienced any measurable sales increase since 2009. Furthermore, it is unlikely that their current numbers are significantly higher than the totals shown above — with the possible exception of Underworld, which had only been on the market for a year when the slide was released, and was later part of the PS3’s Tomb Raider HD Collection.

Even without knowing post-2009 sales, these numbers give us a good basis to compare the most recent Tomb Raider‘s expected first month sales. After just under four weeks on sale, Crystal Dynamic’s reboot now stands at almost half the LTD sales of the original 1996 Tomb Raider, and has outsold LTD sales for every game released in the franchise since Chronicles back in 2000.

It is clear that this year’s Tomb Raider is a major hit for the series, and will likely go on to become the its highest-selling title. The fact that the game missed Square Enix’s sales target says far more about the publisher’s unrealistic forecasts/expectations, than it does about the quality of Crystal Dynamics as a developer or the competence of the North American sales team (who was thrown under the bus in this weeks forecast revision).

Given this new information about first week Tomb Raider sales, it certainly appears as if Crystal Dynamics is being unfairly blamed by the outgoing CEO Yoichi Wada as one of the causes of Square Enix’s weak financial performance. Perhaps the publisher’s next CEO will set the record straight after Wada leaves this June.