The holiday period is rapidly approaching, and this means big sales from manufacturers and publishers alike. With Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Christmas all in quick succession, the period at the end of the year tends to herald a massive increase on average sales numbers.
Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all have real potential to perform excellently this year. Let's take a look at the "Big Three" console manufacturers, and the different types of challenges they face during the Christmas period of 2017. Which company will have the most to celebrate by the New Year?
+ Xbox One X could seriously shake up the market
+ PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is a huge exclusive
- Third party sales lower than Sony due to marketshare
Microsoft has had a somewhat slow year, but there are a number of huge factors playing to their favour as the holiday period approaches. In both software and hardware, Microsoft has been making huge efforts to ensure their brand is recognised by the "core" gamer who wants beautiful looking games and slick, entertaining multiplayer.
Perhaps the most significant of these is the release of the Xbox One X on November 7; a mid-generation refresh that is far more powerful than any other machine on the market. It's not cheap, but it's also set at a very competitive price for the components inside: you would struggle to build a gaming PC capable of 4K at 60fps for $499. Microsoft has already confirmed that the Xbox One X has had the most successful pre-order period out of any Xbox ever released. It's difficult to get an understanding of what precisely this means until the sales numbers are made clear after launch, but it's reassuring to know that Microsoft is happy with the X's performance so far.
Alongside this console, Microsoft has managed to secure a console exclusive in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. The game released earlier this year and has quickly become one of the the most important releases in 2017. It has already reached 1 million concurrent players on Steam, making it the most popular game on the platform right now, and shows no signs of slowing down. PUBG requires a decently powerful PC to run, so I believe there are millions of consumers who are interested in the game with no way to play. Microsoft could be onto a massive success with PUBG on the Xbox One.
Microsoft is not going to catch up Sony on marketshare this console generation, meaning they will likely receive less revenue overall from console and software sales. But the Xbox One X redefines where Microsoft fits into the gaming industry, and this is huge for securing brand recognition and loyalty in the coming years. Microsoft is now the "power" company, and if third-party games consistently look far better on their consoles, this could be great for building up a positive reputation amongst the performance-conscious crowd.
+ Historically strong holiday performance
+ Super Mario Odyssey will sell like crazy
- Stock problems may get even worse
Nintendo loves the holiday season, even more than its competitors. For one reason or another, people love purchasing Nintendo's machines as gifts! With the Nintendo Switch about to enjoy its first Christmas since launch, expect there to be a massive surge in interest for the system. Unfortunately for those looking to buy a Nintendo Switch towards the end of the year, I wouldn't expect them to have an easy time of it. The Switch is already almost impossible to find in stores across Japan and much of the USA, and that's before the holiday rush and release of Super Mario Odyssey!
Speaking of Mario Odyssey, this game will take over the world this holiday season. Considered by some fans to be the first "exploration-based" 3D Mario since Super Mario Sunshine, there seems to be even more hype than usual for the franchise. I'm definitely going to enjoy playing it, and I hope as many people as possible are able to find Switches to experience it too.
That's not all Nintendo has going on this year, however. The release of the SNES Classic towards the end of September will no doubt provide a huge boost in revenue if they are able to provide more stock for the Christmas period (and if they don't, I guarantee the scalpers will be happy).
Nintendo was supposed to have increased their stock for the Autumn period, and their previous actions indicate they hold back stock for big releases. I can only imagine they are going to be holding a lot of stock ready for the holiday rush too. People buying Switches will want games too: Mario Odyssey, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2... all games released this year, and all will likely see a big bump in sales as the hardware install base increases. A profitable quarter is looking likely for Nintendo.
+ Dominant position and potential for aggressive sales
+ Gran Turismo Sport has potential for big numbers
- Not many exclusives towards end of year
Sony got off to a very strong start this generation and never looked back. They have by far the largest marketshare in the industry right now and will enjoy all the benefits that come with it. Third party games that release on multiple platforms will almost certainly sell the most on Sony's Playstation 4, and Sony will gain lots of royalties for these sales.
Part of the reason for Sony's success from the outset this generation has to be the cheaper price of the PS4 when compared to the Xbox One (especially when Microsoft was also bundling Kinect for $100 more). Now we're a few years into the console cycle, I believe Sony will have managed to secure some really solid supply chains for the Playstation 4 and are selling each machine at a good profit. They could continue this over the holiday period and make a lot of money, or could choose to unleash some aggressive price cuts during Black Friday and see the install base for their future releases increase dramatically.
Of course, as well as the hardware itself Sony has been keen to keep a steady flow of games coming for the system to attract new consumers and keep old ones invested. Gran Turismo Sport is probably the biggest Playstation exclusive releasing towards the end of this year. The previous entry in the franchise, Gran Turismo 6, did suffer a sales decline from releasing at the tail-end of the generation, and GTS doesn't have as much hype as a numbered title, but this is still one of Sony's biggest franchises and could do very well.
Even if Sony doesn't have a huge number of exclusives at the end of the year, it doesn't stop all the other releases of 2017 from being popular reasons to grab a PS4.
Winner: The Gamers
It's a bit of a cliche, but it's so true. I think 2017 has potential to be remembered in gaming history as one of the best years for hardware and software releases, so it truly is the consumers who win this holiday period with so much variety to choose from.
Whether you're getting into games for the first time, an industry veteran, someone looking for cutting-edge visuals, or someone who wants a throwback to a retro era, there really is something for everybody this year.
I'm very excited to see how each of the companies performs this holiday season. As may be obvious from my analysis, I believe it is too difficult to predict an overall "winner" based on the fact each company is coming from a very different position and is looking to make an impact on the market in very different ways.
Despite this, it is already clear that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo will likely be happy with their performance this holiday period, and this should hopefully fund lots more exciting projects in the years to come.