By David Radd

Amazon does as much volume of game sales as any major big box retailer, and they provide statistics for their own pre-orders. In the first of what we’re hoping will be the first of an ongoing series, we brought in industry expert Scott Steinberg to give his observations on the top games.

“The bulk of the list is solidly hardcore and this comes down to Amazon’s audience being tech savvy and the pent up demand for these titles,” said Steinberg. “The easiest way to get prominence at a retailer these days is to be a military-style FPS title, so it’s obvious discerning core gamers would seek out the games they wanted via online avenues. There’s not as much originality in many AAA games and there’s still appetite for games that speak to gamers specifically.”

One of the interesting aspects of the pre-orders is that six of the top 10 games are Japanese RPGs. “These games used to be far more common and a far more prominent part of the industry. I think there’s still an audience for these games that might not be served by other channels,” noted Steinberg.

One of the year’s biggest titles on PS Vita, Soul Sacrifice, is very high on the list, showing that there must be some demand for the device. “There’s been an undersupply of good games on the Vita and I think many are looking for high quality game experiences that are outside the mainstream,” he noted. “There are many players that want to play these sorts of original games and I think PS Vita users in particular are looking for cutting edge titles and are savvy as to what’s going out there in the gaming world — it doesn’t surprise me they’re willing to step up for a game like this.”

Something that surprised this writer is, despite the large number of download sales on both PC and Xbox 360, the pre-order of the disc based version of Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition was in the top five. “I think you would be amazed at the adults who play the game — it’s the sort of phenomenon that new people discover every day,” said Steinberg. “It’s a game that’s priced attractively – people will try it out or give it as a gift and downloading is still somewhat esoteric. Don’t forget the ease of recall. Out of all the games at Wizard Con, the majority of people in cosplay were either World of Warcraft or Minecraft.”

Another prominent feature in most of these top pre-order games is, perhaps unsurprisingly, pre-order bonuses. “If you’re going to buy a retail product, a big part is the deluxe packages, many of which are very appealing to specialist consumers. I think the collectible element is big and if you have so many choices available you’re going to buy the one with the soundtrack, map, artbook, figurine, etc.”

Breaking it down into individual lists, the top Xbox 360 pre-orders were more different than alike from the PS3 pre-orders. It seems there’s a larger difference between those two console audiences than many give them credit for. “I think there are differences; Xbox 360 has more of a generalist audience, from families to hardcore,” he said. “PS3 has that larger focus on Japanese games, and mainly because of the Japanese background, it attracts a particular audience that likes those sorts of games.”

Another aspect is Sony developed software, and The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls both ranked highly on Amazon. “Demand is high for games from Sony studios. If you look at Microsoft’s franchises they’re graphic and also fewer in number, but Sony has more mature storytelling content and that appeals to the gamer who enjoys that sort of nuance. The Last of Us places as much emphasis on shooting this as it does the personal interactions and Beyond: Two Souls is heavily cinematic. I think their first-party games have more character to them… though games like PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale might not have that level of sophistication.”

The most prominent Wii U exclusive to get on the list was Pikmin 3 at 27. “It’s clearly been proven time and time again the reasons most people buy a Nintendo platform is for the Nintendo software. Mario, Zelda and the like continue to be top performers and the Wii U, while it had a number of titles at launch, hasn’t seen many releases since and it’s no surprise to see Pikmin 3 being so heavily pre-ordered on the system. For a Nintendo system to appeal to Nintendo fans it has to be built on the back of Nintendo franchises. So yes, it’s high time that more Nintendo games come to Wii U. There are two reasons people buy Nintendo systems: they like family friendly games and they want Nintendo properties, and right now the Wii U doesn’t have enough of either.”