PSN Top Downloads of 2016 Commentary

Originally published on Trevor Trove on January 7, 2017

The PlayStation Blog has announced its top downloaded games of 2016.

As I’ve been focusing more on Trove Talk and other content recently, I haven’t kept up with the PSN Top Downloads or NPD Sales but now seems like a great time to revisit them.

PlayStation 4 Top Games of 2016

Rocket League shows it has incredible staying power by taking the top spot, even after so many people got the game in 2015 as a free PlayStation Plus title. The fact this it is almost exclusively a digital title could give it a leg up on this list though where there are still plenty of people like me who bought most of these games, but in physical form.

Battlefield 1 seemingly pulls the upset that everyone who clicks the thumbs up or thumbs down buttons on YouTube wanted coming in at #2 above Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s #4, though it is unclear if the CoD entry includes the base game and the Legacy Edition that came with Modern Warfare Remastered.

That fact that both Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty rank so high despite only being available for the last two months showcases their still-relevant dominance, beating out even Overwatch and the sports titles.

Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto V continue to show they will never die, appearing at #3 and #6, respectively.

Tom Clancy’s The Division has a surprisingly (for me) strong showing at #5, led in part to it having almost the entire year to pick up sales. But I’m sure that most of its success probably came in those first couple months when people hopped off Destiny to try it out.

Overwatch lands at #7. Again, even with half a year on the market and almost obscene levels of love for Blizzard behind it, is unable to outsell the juggernauts of Call of Duty or Battlefield. As evidenced by even the three-year-old Battlefield 4 coming in at #8 (helped I’m sure by a ton of sales throughout the year).

Despite all of the negativity surrounding the game post-launch, the pre-launch hype did its job and got No Man’s Sky into the Top 10 PSN games of 2016 at #9, ahead of all of the sports powerhouses (save Rocket League).

FIFA 17, NBA 2K17, and Madden NFL 17 predictably still make the list at #10, #11, and #16, respectively. And these are all additional examples where I’m sure factoring in that a huge portion of the people who play these games still go to a store or Amazon and buy the physical version would reveal that they outsold many of the games above them on the list.

2015 titles make up the next part of the list: Need for Speed (12, Nov. 3, 2015), Star Wars Battlefront (#13, Nov. 17, 2015), Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege (#14, Dec. 7, 2015), and Battlefield Hardline (#15, March 17, 2015). Frequent sales throughout the year surely helped these titles, as well.

It is worth noting that three Battlefield titles appearing compared to only the one Call of Duty surprises me. In 2015, Call of Duty had the number one overall game with that year’s installment Black Ops III but even the previous year’s Advanced Warfare outsold nearly every other game to come in at #10. The fact that Black Ops III doesn’t appear on the PSN Top 20 PS4 list suggests, to me at least, the power of EA’s marketing and discounting offers throughout the year. Even two Tom Clancy titles appearing compared to the solitary Call of Duty might be some of the best evidence I’d seen about a shift in balance among the shooters (but I’m sure each Call of Duty is still outselling these others by hundreds of thousands of units, if not millions).

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition makes its debut at #17 and will almost certainly become a staple of these kinds of lists like Minecraft and GTA.

Naughty Dog’s 2016 release Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End squeaks in just ahead of their 2014 release: The Last of Us Remastered at #18 and #19. The fact that something like No Man’s Sky managed to outsell (digitally at least) one of the marquee first-party titles is an interesting juxtaposition. Though, as with so many titles on this list, the inclusion of physical sales could easily move Uncharted above No Man’s Sky.

And long-awaited end-of-the-year release Final Fantasy XV manages to round out the top 20 in its single month on the market. I’m sure Square Enix is happy to see that.

VR, Vita, and the Classics

It doesn’t really surprise me that three of the marquee PlayStation VR titles top the list with Job Simulator, Batman: Arkham VR, and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. If you factor in the physical releases of Batman and Rush of Blood, I’m sure they both outsold Job Simulator too.

The fact that PlayStation VR Worlds appears so high on the digital list at #4 surprises me since I would have figured MOST PlayStation VR owners got this with the Launch Bundle.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes at #5 intrigues me. It’s not a game I have any reason to pick up because it relies so heavily on one person in VR diffusing the bomb while another outside tells the person what wires to cut in a uniquely VR example of multiplayer. But it probably makes for an excellent showcase piece to show off VR to friends.

I can’t really speak to Here They Lie, Sports Bar VR, or Carnival Games VR. Though I like the idea of Sports Bar VR being a simple sports bar hub where I could connect with other friends in VR around the country. If only I were more into sports bars (come on Tabletop Simulator to PlayStation VR…)

Harmonix Music VR, despite being somewhat critically panned comes in at #9 suggesting more life that I thought I’d see from those music titles. Especially with the amount of love I’ve seen for Thumper or REZ Infinite instead. I’d have expected both of those games above this but there’s something to be said for the Harmonix brand.

VR staple EVE: Valkyrie rounds out the Top Ten VR list. Part of me is surprised it didn’t rate higher (though that could also be affected by physical versions like my own) but then part of me sees stuff like Sports Bar VR and Carnival Games VR and things that maybe there a much more social aspect to VR than I anticipated with people buying games that others can watch and enjoy from the sidelines. EVE: Valkyrie strikes me much more as a solo experience flying around and dogfighting in space.

Not too much to report on the Vita front. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth and Severed are the only two new 2016 releases at #1 and #10, respectively (though God Eater: Resurrection is a 2016 remaster of the PSP God Eater and XCOM: Enemy Unknown Plus a remaster of the PS3 game). Everything else is a mix of older remaster collections (Jak and Daxter, Ratchet & Clank) and some of the best/most high-profile titles on the system(Persona 4 Golden/Borderlands 2).

Rockstar has a healthy dominance on the PS Classics list with half of the list featuring GTA San Andreas (#1), Bully (#2), GTA The Trilogy (#3), GTA Vice City (#7) and Manhunt (#10).

Dark Cloud 2 at #4 gives me hope Level-5 is working on a Dark Cloud 3 alongside Ni No Kuni 2 but it is a very faint hope.

The remaining four (Twisted Metal: Black – #5, The Warriors – #6, Star Wars Bounty Hunter – #8, and Rogue Galaxy – #9) are mostly unsurprising as each are among the more recognizable PS2 to PS4 offerings. I’m surprised GTA III didn’t manage to beat at least one of them as a stand-alone title but it could also be that it just did so well in 2015 when the program launched that the people searching for that nostalgia already got their fix or their just buying it alongside the other two in the trilogy. 

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