Video Game Fans: The Battle for Your Bucks Heats Up in November

Games-Call of Duty
AP Photo/Activision/Infinity Ward"Call of Duty: Ghosts"
If you're a diehard gamer, prepare to be a little poorer by the end of the month.

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.

7 Hot Toys Predictions for the 2013 Holiday Season
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Video Game Fans: The Battle for Your Bucks Heats Up in November

Elmo was popular when I was a kid. He was popular in the mid-90s, when America went insane over Tickle Me Elmo dolls. And with the toy appearing on all three lists, it looks like he'll be popular this year, too. 

Centuries from now, when humanity has migrated to the stars, we'll still give our kids Elmo dolls for Space Chanukah. 

Here's another ghost of Christmas shopping past. Kmart and Walmart are both bullish on the latest Furby, which according to the product description "has a mind of its own." It goes on to say that "the way you treat your Furby will shape its personality." Incidentally, you could also describe children this way. Expect to pay around $60 for this one.
Doc McStuffins follows the adventures of a veterinarian who operates on stuffed animals, and the dolls and play centers promise to be popular again this year. All three retailers have this playset on their lists, though it should be noted that Toys R Us exclusively has the "Deluxe" version of the kit pictured here. The Deluxe set has 14 bonus pieces, including a fetching pink labcoat. Note that the Deluxe costs $79.99, versus $64.50 for the standard set at Walmart. 

Toys R Us is building tablet mini-shops in its stores, so clearly it expects kid's tablets to be a big market this season. Both Toys R Us and Kmart have the LeapFrog on their lists this year. 

The tablets cost $150 and is durable enough to withstand drops, though it's not waterproof. So if your kid is prone to pitching toys into the toilet, steer clear of this one. 

The Ninja Turtles are going to be big this year. At Kmart you can find this remote-control "Shellraiser" vehicle, which shoots sewer covers and costs around $45. At Walmart there's the Secret Sewer Lair playset, which costs $80. And at its holiday preview event last week, Toys R Us had classic Ninja Turtles figures and their "party wagon" on display. 

Basically, you can't go wrong with Ninja Turtles. (Which, incidentally, is what I tell my parents every year when they ask what I want for Chanukah.)

Both Kmart and Walmart list this one, so it looks to be this season's hot Nerf gun. As the coloring and name make clear, it's a toy weapon being marketed to girls, a rare move for Nerf. We're thinking the popularity of archery-centric movies with teen girl protagonists like "The Hunger Games" and "Brave" account for Nerf's sudden interest in selling to the female market. 

We don't recall Princess Merida or Katniss Everdeen using a hot-pink-and-purple bow, but hey, that's toy marketing for you. This one will cost $15.99 at Walmart.

Unlike other fairy dolls, this one actually flies. It must be a real fairy!

No, just kidding, it's just a toy. Get it for $30 at Walmart. It takes six AA batteries, which aren't included.

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