Back when Halo 3 released, I wrote a blog post about how the massive sales of this product would dwarf any kind of educational video game sales. I didn’t even tackle whether video games in schools are a good idea or might help students learn academic subjects. But that doesn’t matter. No matter what you believe, it’s an idea whose time will never come.
In short, simple math and economics points out the predictable failure of creating top quality educational video games for the classroom that can compete in this market.
Here were my points:
- In one week, more people bought a copy of Halo 3 than there are teachers in the United States.
- Every public school in the U.S. would have to purchase 100 copies of a game to match the sales of Halo 3.
- Back then, Halo 3 was reported to have cost $30 million dollars just to develop the game.
Now let’s pretend you are a video game company…
Let’s say you believe that video games can revolutionize education. You know the market is small, so you run the numbers. As an advocate, you are insanely optimistic about your chances to sell an educational video game to schools in the United States. To make the most of your chances to make a sale, let’s pretend you could design it so that it covers all subjects and grade levels, and correlates to content standards of all 50 states. You do your best to make sure that it is fun to play no matter if you are 5 years old or 18. Even knowing that 2% is a pretty good market penetration, you might gamble that you could get 10% of all schools in the US to purchase your game. And maybe you’d decide that your game is so educational that they will pay $100 for it, double or triple what normal games sell for. And hey, you won’t need to pay a sales force or buy advertising for your game because it’s so good that it will sell itself!
What do you get? Even with these wild claims and ridiculously optimistic estimates, the BEST you could do is generate sales of about a million dollars, not even enough to pay the production costs of one mediocre game.
Now here comes Grand Theft Auto 4 to blow those numbers even further out of the water. According to Wired News (GTAIV Budget Tops Gaming Records), “Grand Theft Auto IV’s meticulously designed, nuanced world required almost 1,000 people to craft, and final costs for the production were around $100 million…” That’s at least three times as much as Halo 3 and doesn’t even count the cost of marketing and sales.
So the next time someone says, “hey, I hear kids like the video games, why don’t they make an educational one” look them straight in the eye and ask them what they are smoking.