The Switch looks set to dominate the Holiday shopping season, with the PS4 beating Xbox.
Holiday seasons have been really straightforward in terms of guessing which console may emerge as the top seller for the last few years, but this year seems to be a bit different, because it’s the first time we can count on all three consoles to deliver some exclusives, multiplatform games, and presumably some bundles and price drops, to drive sales.
It’s hard to know what the bundles and pricing may be, even if we can speculate – for instance, could anyone have guessed the $200 Spider-Man PS4 bundle Sony put out last year? But what we do know is what the Holiday lineup will be for all three consoles, and that gives us some better idea of how we can expect them to perform.
As mentioned earlier, this is the first year all three consoles have meaningful exclusives lined up for the Holiday shopping season. Nintendo always does well on this front, and they always have great games in the last few months of the year if nothing else. So it is this year, with a veritable deluge of Switch titles planned from the end of August to the end of the year – Astral Chain, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Luigi’s Mansion 3, and, of course, the big mass market seller, Pokemon Sword/Shield. In and of themselves, these games are big, especially Zelda and Pokemon, but Nintendo at this point has a demonstrably effective long tail strategy for its software, which means we can also simultaneously expect games such as Super Mario Maker 2, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, to continue to push sales.
All of this is not even accounting for the third party multiplatform games and ports are coming to the system in this period – which are all launching on the Switch between September and November, and while they may not individually drive Switch sales as much as something like Mario Maker might, but collectively drive more people to the system. I am also not accounting for smaller scale, more niche releases in this period, such as Daemon X Machina, which, again, may not be a huge software or hardware mover, but adds to the collective appeal of the lineup.
So you take all that – and really, Pokemon is more than enough on its own – and then add the persistent rumors of the cheaper Switch Mini which allegedly launches this year, and Nintendo appears to be sitting pretty as far as this Holiday season goes. Tie it with the declining sales for the Xbox One and the PS4, as seen all year long so far, as well as the Switch’s innate appeal, which lets it sell even when it doesn’t have a major release, and it’s hard to see Nintendo not coming out on top this year.
But even if Nintendo comfortable gets the throne, which they almost certainly will, the battle for second place is interesting, too. Sony has arguably its most anticipated exclusive ever launching with Death Stranding in November, with Shenmue 3 slated for later that month. This is in addition to, of course, Sony’s marketing deals for most major multiplatform games this year – Destiny 2: Shadowkeep and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare It’s a slower year for the PS4 and Xbox One this year in terms of multiplatform game releases, doubtless because so many publishers appear to be gearing up for the inevitable launch of next generation consoles next year. That, as well as the unnatural stacking of the first four months of next year with a lot of high profile games such as Watch Dogs Legion, Cyberpunk 2077, and Final Fantasy 7 Remake, seems to have left a relative vacuum this year for PlayStation and Xbox.
But really, Death Stranding alone has major sales potential, especially if the response to its trailer and gameplay reveal is anything to go by. Adding a single player Star Wars adventure, and a new Destiny expansion hold a lot of potential to move a lot of consoles – and if Sony does in fact throw a grenade into the mix in the form of a deal such as the $199 PS4 one they had last year, then all bets are off. They may even threaten Nintendo’s top status at that point.
Microsoft, in contrast, doesn’t seem to have as much stacked up for this year. This is actually the first year this decade they have not got a new Forza game launching. What they do have, however, is Gears 5. A new Gears of War game was a major deal back in the day, but the hype around Gears 5 is extremely muted, following a very disappointing showing at E3 this year that may have done more harm than good, an average Gears of War 4, and that game’s general critical and commercial underpeformance. It’s not unreasonable to be a bit wary of how the game may perform. Xbox also seems to be almost entirely lacking in big name multiplatform release deals for the year, though Borderlands 3 is a big one in their corner, as is Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
Borderlands and Star Wars are big- however, it is unlikely that they can neutralize Destiny and Call of Duty, as well as a stronger exclusives lineup the PlayStation very clearly has for the year. However, Microsoft always has extremely great deals in the Holiday season, and this year, we could see a $149 Xbox One S (at least for the All Digital Edition), which would surely help to move some consoles – I am just not confident of the extent to which it might work, especially given Sony too could pull off similarly great deals, and are better off in all other regards.
A lot of this depends on far too many variables that are hard to parse in the here and now, and this will probably be a good topic to return to later in the year, but in the here and now, if I had to guess what the Holiday season standings will be like for this year, I would put Nintendo in a commanding lead with the Switch, with the PS4 in a similarly comfortable second place, and the Xbox One bringing up the rear.
In all cases, I would presume all three consoles do well, of course – but every game has a winner, and for this year, it seems Nintendo is it.
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