Did the Beatles Cut into Their Own Sales?

The Beatles

9/09/09.  The day the music came alive again.  Well, that’s at least what Apple, EMI, Sony/ ATV, and Harmonix wanted us to believe.

The world would be getting one of the most anticipated and hyped up games of all-time, Beatles: Rock Band, exposing a new generation to arguably the greatest band of all-time.  Moms and dads would pick up plastic instruments and jam to “Happiness is a Warm Gun” with their wide-eyed kids.  Finally, videogames as entertainment would bring families together in the living room, crossing the generation gap.

For hardcore Beatles fans, 9/09/09 represented the availability of the holy grail of Beatles recordings, the remastered stereo and mono mixes completed at Abbey Road studios, officially approved by Paul, Ringo, and the estates of John and George.

The stereo box set, with an average price of about $200, would clearly appeal to the bulk of Beatles fans.  In the stereo box set you’d effectively get the Beatles complete works.  The mono box set, originally produced in a limited run for approximately $240, would appeal to the audiophiles and hardcore Beatles fans who wanted the original ten albums remastered in mono as they were originally recorded.  Then there is the group of Beatles fanatics that needed both box sets.

On release day, Beatles fans were faced with two box sets each with a price tag of $200+ and Beatles: Rock Band, priced anywhere from $50 (just the game) to $250 (premium bundle).  With tough decisions comes sacrifice.

The Beatles: Rock Band sold approximately 595,000 copies in September, while analysts had predicted sales of over 1M during the month.   In the major music markets of North America, Japan and the UK, more than 2.25 million copies of The Beatles’ remastered albums were purchased during the first five days of release.

While music gaming sales have been down in 2009, it’s only logical to assume that the Beatles remastered albums cut into the sales of Beatles: Rock Band.  How many fans had approximately $300 lying around to purchase the stereo (or mono) box and just the game (no instruments)?  If you didn’t have the peripherals already, the cheapest option was around $150, just to play. Any way you look at it, the cost of being a Beatles fan was at an all-time high.  Sacrifices must be made.

If the Beatles did cut into their own sales, did it still make financial sense? Possibly. One could easily argue that the added buzz (and saved marketing costs) of a synched launch helped raise the overall revenue, whether that revenue came from a videogame or just the music.