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SYFY WIRE video games

Gaming: Game sales triple U.S. movie box office; Stranger Things turns Fortnite upside down; more

By Benjamin Bullard
Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order game scene

Even as two of the biggest console makers see sales tapering as Sony and Microsoft prepare new devices for launch next year, video games continue the recent trend of flexing their money muscle against the movie box office. 

New figures from analysis firm NPD show game sales in the U.S. are outpacing theater ticket sales by nearly triple through the first three quarters of 2019. Domestic game sales — including hardware, software, and subscription services — total $27.9 billion through the first nine months of this year. By comparison, the U.S. box office has so far racked up $9.3 billion in 2019, taking in just more than one-third of the gaming industry’s sales haul, according to Box Office Mojo

After a summertime lull, the box office began showing signs of late-year life thanks to big responses to It Chapter Two and especially Joker, which so far has taken in more than $300 million domestically — with end-of-year blockbusters like Frozen II and Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker still to come. Together with the record-shattering Avengers: Endgame and other Disney releases, studios under the Disney umbrella have accounted for 33.4 percent of domestic ticket sales in the first three quarters of 2019, according to CNBC.

On the gaming side, Take 2 Interactive holds three of the top 10 spots on the year-to-date best-selling list, says NPD, with NBA 2K20 in first place, followed by Borderlands 3 (no. 3), and Grand Theft Auto V (no. 10). Warner Bros. Interactive’s Mortal Kombat 11 is the year’s second best-selling game through the first nine months, with Kingdom Hearts III from Square Enix coming in at no. 5, and Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate taking the no. 8 spot. 

Even though 2019’s nearly in the bag, there’re still plenty of big games set to land between now and Christmas — including Death Stranding (Nov. 8), Pokémon Sword / Shield (Nov. 15), Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (Nov. 15), Shenmue III (Nov. 19), Terminator: Resistance (Dec. 3), and Darksiders Genesis (Dec. 5). Microsoft’s “Project Scarlet” Xbox One successor and Sony’s PlayStation 5 are both expected to usher in the next console generation late next year.

Stranger Things is making the most out of the anniversary of Will Byers’ disappearance in to the Upside Down. Netflix commemorated Nov. 6 (known to fans as Stranger Things Day, aka the day Will was supernaturally abducted in Season 1) by tweeting out a blast of new gaming goodies, headed up by a pair of skins that bring the Demogorgon and Chief Hopper (for “that chaotic dad energy”) into the newly-refurbished Fortnite universe.

Netflix also revealed a new collector’s edition of Stranger Things 3: The Game, as well as a “Battle of the Exes” skin pack for Dead by Daylight that features — who else? — Steve and Nancy, who’ll hopefully have better luck surviving a serial killer than they had negotiating teenage matters of the heart. 

At least movies and video games know a thing or two about symbiosis. A pair of upcoming gaming crossovers are bringing lighthearted, cartoonish versions of Jumanji: The Next Level and the rebooted Charlie’s Angels to life on mobile screens, thanks to developer TabTale. 

Designed as casual, pick-up-and-play adventures suited for gaming on the go, each game taps into its movie roots, with Charlie’s Angels chasing down bad guys and peeling out in cars in a side-scrolling adventure that’s tailor-made for short, episodic bursts of gameplay. The Jumanji game, meanwhile, will come packing characters straight from the movies, featuring animated versions of Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, and Jack Black.

Charlie’s Angels: The Game is set to arrive sometime this month (the movie debuts on Nov. 15), while Jumanji hits mobile storefronts in December, ahead of the Dec. 13 release of Jumanji: The Next Level.