Destiny sales exceed $325M in first five days despite meh reviews

The sci-fi shooter isn't close to selling as fast as titles from existing franchises like Grand Theft Auto, but for a nonsequel, it's humming right along.

Nick Statt Former Staff Reporter / News
Nick Statt was a staff reporter for CNET News covering Microsoft, gaming, and technology you sometimes wear. He previously wrote for ReadWrite, was a news associate at the social-news app Flipboard, and his work has appeared in Popular Science and Newsweek. When not complaining about Bay Area bagel quality, he can be found spending a questionable amount of time contemplating his relationship with video games.
Nick Statt
2 min read

The successor to Halo, Bungie's ambitious project Destiny is quickly moving units. Bungie

Destiny may be a victim of oversized expectations, but that's not keeping it stuck to the shelves.

The sci-fi video game, in which players assume the role of a super, power-imbued soldier fighting invading aliens across the Solar System, has amassed $325 million in sales in its first five days, the game's publisher, Activision, said Wednesday. Destiny was released September 9 for the Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.

The title, developed by Halo creator Bungie, isn't racking up sales quite as quickly as gaming's best-sellers, such as last year's Grand Theft Auto V, the fastest-selling game of all time, or the annual Call of Duty first-person shooter titles. But when judged as a brand-new intellectual property -- or IP (that is, a game that doesn't belong to an existing franchise) -- Destiny is fast approaching record-breaking status.

"We believe the $325 million figure represents approximately 5 million units at a blended retail sales price of $65, making it one of the fastest-selling games of all time and likely the best-selling new intellectual property of all time," wrote Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.

Activision announced on Tuesday that Destiny, which was the most preordered new IP in history, had shipped $500 million worth of copies to retailers. The announcement today of Destiny's sell-through rate, or the amount of those shipped preorder and off-the-shelf copies customers actually picked up, puts that somewhat ambiguous figure in perspective.

Though it's not all fun and games for the makers of Destiny. The game was consistently painted as one of the most anticipated titles of the year, with the ambitious tagline, "Become Legend." Yet since its release, it's received less-than-favorable reviews from critics -- holding a score of around 78 out of 100 on aggregation site Metacritic -- due in part to a lackluster storyline, repetitive gameplay, and an overall lack of depth, leaving some players and reviewers feeling disappointed that the finished result didn't live up to all the hype.

Despite that, Destiny is on its way to shrugging off those concerns through sales performance and is expected to continue building momentum.

"The mediocre [review] score is likely going to be an impediment to significant sales going forward," Pachter added, "although we believe that solid marketing support, strong buzz from the gamer community, and record-breaking sales of next generation consoles should be a driver for sell-through of all 10 million units shipped this year."

Billed as a "shared-world shooter," Destiny incorporates customization and cooperative-play elements borrowed from popular massively multiplayer online games, such as fellow Activision property World of Warcraft. MMOGs keep gamers hooked for months and even years with additional content that can have players plugging away at in-game quests and achievements to better outfit their avatar, or in-game character.

Activision has already said it pledges to invest as much as $500 million throughout the 10-year exclusivity agreement it has with Bungie to keep gamers coming back.