Video Game Fans: The Battle for Your Bucks Heats Up in November
After more than three years of declining sales, the video game industry is counting on November to breathe new life into the fading console business. Each of the first three weeks of the month has a significant release hitting the market ahead of the telltale holiday shopping season.
The fireworks kicked off this week with Activision Blizzard's (ATVI) "Call of Duty: Ghosts" rolling out on Tuesday. Sony (SNE) will hit the market next Friday with the new PlayStation 4 system. Microsoft (MSFT) will follow seven days later with the ballyhooed Xbox One.
Ghosts Will Haunt You
The leading video game publisher has been putting out annual installments of its combat series every November, and they have typically managed to outsell the prior year's release. "Call of Duty: Black Ops" II grossed more than $1 billion worldwide in its first 15 days on the market last year. There's little reason to expect this week's entry to fare worse.
The market -- and marketing -- of the "Call of Duty" franchise has centered around the multi-player nature of the game. Players log in to compete with and against fellow players. However, Activision Blizzard hasn't forgotten that there are still gamers out there that prefer to play alone. "Call of Duty: Ghosts" features a new world, story, and characters that can be enjoyed in single-player mode.
Software sales have been slumping through most of the past few years. This single release could help turn that metric positive this month.
Here Comes the PS4
Sony and Microsoft will be jockeying for position this holiday shopping season, and it's only fitting that they should be introduced just seven days apart.
Sony gets the first crack at the gaming world that has been waiting six years for a new system outside of last year's Wii U flop. Sony also isn't just beating Microsoft by a few days in terms of release dates. Sony's PS4 is hitting the market at $399, a full $100 less than the rival Xbox One.
Cheaper and earlier won't be enough, of course. Nintendo (NTDOY) had those advantages when it rolled out its Wii U last November. But the gaming system failed to catch on, and even a recent price cut only saw Nintendo move 300,000 Wii U's worldwide in its latest quarter.
Sony was victimized a couple of years ago by hackers breaking into its gaming network, and the platform was down for several weeks as Sony tried to fortify its multi-player platform. This has helped the current generation's Xbox 360 be the console of choice -- in this country, at least -- but Sony is hoping to woo Xbox owners by making its new system less restrictive.
Xbox One Sounds Like Xbox Won
Microsoft may be the last of the three console makers to hit the market with its new machine on Nov. 22, but it's still the defending champ of the console wars until Sony unseats it.
It won't be easy to keep the crown. Microsoft upset gamers when it introduced restrictive measures that require daily online connectivity. The software giant eventually retreated from that stance, but the PR damage was done.
We also can't ignore the $499 price. That's $100 more than the PS4 and $200 more than the Wii U. It's also the same price as an entry-level iPad, and there are cheaper tablets out there. The Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii didn't have competition from tablets to contend with when they were introduced six to seven years ago.
However, Microsoft has tens of millions of loyal gamers that count on Xbox Live as their multi-player network of choice. This will give Xbox One an important edge with the early adopters buying in this season.
It's going to be a busy November for video game retailers. Investors and diehard gamers wouldn't have it any other way.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Activision Blizzard. The Motley Fool owns shares of Activision Blizzard and Microsoft. Try any of our newsletter services free for 30 days.