Microsoft reported today that the new Halo game Halo: Reach generated more than $200 million worth of sales in the U.S. and Europe on its launch day. $200 million is a lot of cash, bigger than the opening of any Hollywood film in the history of cinema… right?

It seems like every year a big video game title is released, and huge dollar figures are reported, resulting in a couple journalists to speculate that video games is beginning to overtake Hollywood in the entertainment industry.

Well… Not even close.

The highest grossing opening weekend of all time was The Dark Knight with $158.4 million. But that’s only the domestic total – the money generated from US screens. The highest grossing film worldwide, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, had an opening weekend total of $394 million.

One must also consider that Halo Reach costs $60 for the standard version, $150 for the premium version. Microsoft has not disclosed how many units were sold, but 2.7 million units is the optimistic estimate. The average movie ticket in 2010 is $7.95 (which might shock any of you living in cities with high 3D surcharges). So a film like Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince sold 52.5 million tickets worldwide from Friday-Sunday, or a film like Spider-Man 3 sells 22 million tickets in the United States alone, on opening weekend.

But what about the long haul?

James Cameron’s Avatar made $2.76 billion theatrically (or 250 million tickets), sold 3.2 million copies on DVD/Blu-ray in the first day of release alone, and 6.2 million Blu-rays in total, and 13.5 million DVDs total in just the first few weeks of release (no current sales numbers are available). The film will probably have a much longer life due to the upcoming Special Edition DVD/Blu-ray release, and eventual 3D blu-ray release. And we won’t even begin to speculate about VOD rentals and such.  Who knows how many total units that may add up to. A low estimate is probably 350 million units, or something like $3.5-4 billion in total movie sales.

A bestselling title like Halo 3 sells 8-10 million copies in the life of the title. Something like $700-$750 million in sales.

That doesn’t make the Halo: Reach figure any less impressive.

I’m just tired of mainstream media touting opening day video game numbers as proof that video games are beginning to overtake movies in the entertainment field. Please, let’s stop trying to make a news story into something it is not.

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