Liam Callahan, Director Games Industry at NPD, expects the the upcoming gaming holiday season (Q4'15) to be a "gift" for the video game industry in with growth across hardware and software. Typically, the fourth quarter (Q4) of the calendar year represents just over 40% of the year’s sales, due to a combination of gifting and new software releases.
Hardware sales are down 6% year-to-date through August data. This is mainly due to the decline of 7th generation consoles and portables, which are not being offset by 8th generation consoles despite a 66% increase in sales.
Callahan says that for Microsoft's Xbox One, this holiday will have hard comps to last year as we saw strong sales based on the attractive Assassin’s Creed Unity bundle and the lower $350 promotional price. However, with the launch of Halo 5, Xbox One has a 'system seller,' and 'killer app' that could see many 360 holdouts upgrading to the Xbox One.
PS4 comps would also have been tough due to their success last holiday, but the recently announced $50 price drop is certain to help sales. PS4 does not have as compelling a story with their first-party lineup, but one could argue that they have two of the best third-party bundles including the presumed software hits of Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Star Wars: Battlefront.
Nintendo's Wii U was helped last holiday due to the success of Super Smash Bros, but Callahan predicts that the case will be tough for software pushing hardware this holiday. "While Mario Maker has the potential to create a fan base over time, and Yoshi’s Wooly World’s has a unique art style, they will likely not generate the excitement we saw for Super Smash," he said.
Through August, physical software is up a modest 1%, but there is potential for success this holiday.
Non-annualized franchises are the key story for software this year. Star Wars: Battlefront, Halo 5, and Fallout 4 all launching this holiday, plus the franchises that typically sell well like Call of Duty, NBA 2K, Madden, and Assassin’s Creed.
Callahan predicts that the top 10 games in Q4’15 will be the following:
1. Call of Duty: Black Ops III
2. Star Wars: Battlefront
3. Halo 5: Guardians
4. Fallout 4
5. NBA 2K16
6. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate
7. Madden NFL 16
8. FIFA 16
9. Disney Infinity 3.0
10. Lego Dimensions
"The last few rankings are going to be tough, so there are some 'wildcards' that may edge out what I have here, including: Skylanders: Superchargers, Metal Gear Solid V, Just Cause 3, Just Dance 2016, and Rainbow 6: Siege," Callahan commented.