Space Invaders. Tetris. Mario Brothers. Sonic the Hedgehog. Final Fantasy VII. Halo.
Whether you’ve played these games or not, you recognize them as some of the most influential titles ever released. They are killer applications—the type that lead gamers to shell out big bucks for a brand new system just for the opportunity to play one game. A killer app can provide stability to a fledging game publisher for years or cause a new video game console to excel.
Space Invaders proved the first video-game-related killer app. Its immense popularity as an arcade game transferred to its console iteration, and in 1980 it single-handedly quadrupled sales for the Atari 2600. Possibly the most well-known killer app known to gamers and non-gamers alike is the Mario series. With a sales record of more than 200 million copies, the Mario series is the most successful video game franchise in history.
Killer apps can also change the face of a video game genre. Before Final Fantasy VII, released in 1997, only a handful of console role-playing games succeeded in the U.S.A. FFVII changed the face of the genre and gave it immense popularity. Its legacy is seen clearly in the explosion of new RPGs that followed in its wake, including popular games like Fable. FFVII established the core value of the PlayStation.
Probably the most recent killer app is Microsoft’s flagship series Halo. A primary reason for the success of the Xbox and Xbox 360, these games are among the best first-person shooters ever created. Gamers coined the term “Halo Killer” to refer to any video game produced in an effort to beat Halo in game play and sales.
Do you know anyone who ever bought a video game console just to play a single game? What do you think makes these so popular?