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Metal Gear isn't 'beating' the Avengers: Why movie tickets aren't game sales

Seriously, this makes everyone look dumb

The fact that "Metal Gear Solid 5 made more than Avengers: Age of Ultron" on their respective opening days has been repeated over and over in the gaming press in the past few days, and this is used as some kind of evidence that gaming is finally taking down film as ... something? Biggest opening day piece of entertainment? I'm not even sure what point is supposed to be made here.

This isn't comparing apples and oranges, it's looking at a wingnut and debating whether or not it would be a good hat. Let's dig into these numbers, and their source.

Where this comes from

The information itself comes from Adobe Digital Index's report. Here is the slide.

adobe slide

Let's begin with the fact that Age of Ultron made $84 million on its first day in the US, not globally. "The Disney and Marvel Studios film took in $84.5 million on its opening day in the U.S., starting with preview screenings on Thursday night," CNN Money reported.

Breaking out how much Age of Ultron actually made on its "opening day" isn't a simple task, as it played in many markets and opened on different dates. "Avengers: Age Of Ultron was the dominant box office force overseas this weekend with a hulking $201.2M start," Deadline reported back in April. "The Disney/Marvel mash-up kicked off its career in 44 markets representing 55% of its international footprint, initially beginning to roll out on Wednesday and finishing the maiden frame at the high end of industry projections."

Outside of the numbers themselves seeming to be inaccurate, comparing the revenue brought in by a $60 product to the revenue brought in by ticket sales that usually cost under $10 is giving games a significant advantage. In many cases the ticket price is significantly under $10, as the average price for a movie ticket worldwide was $4.86.

The ability for a studio to sell a blockbuster movie over and over throughout its life is the envy of gaming

It only takes a bit under three million units sold at $60 apiece to get to $180 million in revenue. It would take 10 million tickets sold at $8 each to reach $80 million in revenue. The cultural reach of films is much greater than games, and these very basic numbers show just how many more people saw Ultron than played Metal Gear Solid 5.

It's also important to note that until Konami releases hard numbers — and that's numbers of units sold, not shipped — everyone is guessing about how much the game has made at retail. There are systems in place to track ticket sales, but no such authoritative data exists for game sales and actual performance is a closely guarded secret in the industry. And don’t forget, day one digital sales on every major platform are completely opaque to retail tracking systems, further muddying this already problematic comparison.

Besides, Age of Ultron has since made over $1.4 billion dollars in worldwide ticket sales, and that's a number Metal Gear Solid 5 will likely never be able to match, especially when you compare the sharp drop of sales performance of games after opening day versus the longer burn of films in theaters. And once those sales slow to a trickle in the gaming world, outside of a few blips when the price is lowered, they will almost never go back up.

Age of Ultron made money at the theaters, and it made money from being shown on planes, Disney makes money selling it to cable channels and it's likely going to perform very well in Blu-ray and DVD sales. The ability for a studio to sell a blockbuster movie over and over throughout its life is the envy of gaming, an industry where you have one shot at a fat opening weekend.

What this means

The point isn't that one industry is "better" or "more powerful" than the other, or even that one is more profitable; there are so many variables at play here that coming up with a way to even judge that would take an article that's much more extensive and would likely be endlessly arguable, especially when you factor in shady "Hollywood math."

What's important to note is that comparing revenue of a game versus a movie at all is deeply silly, and taking into account just the opening day without looking at the broader implications of how releases in each format perform also is also incredibly short sighted.

So please don't repeat the idea that Metal Gear made more money than a movie on its first day as if it means anything. It doesn't. We already know gaming is a big business, both culturally and financially. Trying to fudge our way into meaningless headlines with misleading numbers isn't helping anyone's case.

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