Unlike most new franchises, Destiny is far from an underdog. The setting might have been brand new, but Destiny's developer Bungie is the same company that created Halo - one of the most popular games of all time. Activision ensured the success that Destiny would find at launch last fall with a massive marketing campaign, and despite mixed reviews the game went on to rack up $325 million in its first five days, setting the record for a brand new IP.
Still, it's one thing to successfully launch a new series - establishing another beloved franchise in Activision's stable is a whole other matter. As the cherry on top, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (which might not have sold as well as its predecessor) delivered a strong hit for next-gen fans of the series, with publisher Activision claiming that it was the "biggest entertainment launch of 2014."
So, in the battle of old juggernaut versus new, who came out on top? Initial reports seem to favor Call of Duty, as according to the NPD Group Advanced Warfare remains the best-selling game of the year. Destiny, meanwhile, didn't even crack the top two (the second spot went to another long-lived franchise, Madden NFL 15).
Destiny might be the best-performing new IP on 2014's top ten list (the only other freshman title that appears is Ubisoft's Watch Dogs), but it clearly can't hold a candle to long-term industry stalwarts, right?
Not so fast. The NPD report only includes physical sales, but on digital distribution platforms it’s a different story. According to Sony, the PlayStation 4 edition of Destiny was the PlayStation Store's best-selling game in 2014, with Advanced Warfare coming in third. On the PlayStation 3, Advanced Warfare beat out Destiny, but just barely; the two titles occupy the third and fourth spots on the list, respectively (the best-selling PlayStation Store title for the PS3? Minecraft).
Sony's chart raises a number of questions regarding the usefulness of the NPD list, as well as the validity of any end-of-year-sales data. Digital sales are on the rise, and there's no reason why they shouldn't be included with their hard-copy brethren. Even more importantly, without specific numbers and by-console break-downs, in-depth analysis is impossible. Both Destiny and Advanced Warfare are viable game of the year contenders; if they're fun to play, do sales ultimately even matter to the every-day consumer?
That being said, there's one clear winner in all of this: Activision, who published both titles. After the public criticisms levelled at other major publishers this year (particularly Ubisoft), the publisher must be feeling pretty good about itself. By either study, it's got the first and the third-best selling game of the year. As long as that money keeps rolling in, the games' relative chart positions don't matter in the slightest.