The year is young, but we are already looking towards the upcoming holiday season. There has been a continuing drought in terms of new big-ticket games being released. Right now, it looks that the launch of new console systems this fall may not see much in the way of new product. This begs the question, do the new console systems even need games to be successful?
Of course, that is a rhetorical question and the answer is of course the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X need games. However, the days of needing a massive launch title are over.
As the game market matures, consumers have become more sophisticated in their purchasing behavior. There is a growing core group of consumers that will rush out to buy a new console day one because they know it will provide great entertainment value for years to come. It also helps that being one of the first to own a new game system is a status symbol.
There is another group of consumers that is not in a huge rush. They will wait to see the initial consumer reaction to the new systems and make a more careful decision. Hopefully game libraries will build and prices will come down.
Among the early purchasers, Sony has a major advantage. The larger number of PlayStation 4 owners are likely to upgrade to a PlayStation 5. However, the purchasers from 2021 and beyond will take a closer look at the individual systems. This is where it becomes important for Microsoft to really distinguish the Xbox Series X.
This trend played out in reverse the last generation. The Xbox One got off to a strong early launch, driven by the large base of Xbox 360 owners. After the initial excitement died down consumers took a closer look and realized the PlayStation 4 was the better system.
DFC Intelligence released its latest ongoing look at major upcoming games. For the past year, we have seen incredibly little existing in the way of major new products.
Much of the action will be for PC games. The biggest new title of the first half, Cyberpunk 2077, from CD Projekt, will not only have a big PC push but they have worked hard to get the game on Nvidia’s GeForce Now streaming service from day one.
For its part, Microsoft is focusing more on PC games and even looking to bring back classic franchises like Age of Empires and Microsoft Flight Simulator. Long term Microsoft’s ability to leverage the Xbox brand to PC and other platforms could be a key advantage.
Short-term, the biggest issue is how many units will Sony and Microsoft ship? Supply constraints could be the leading factor in limiting sales. Of course, China’s coronavirus issue only adds to the uncertainty.
A major question is when will we know more about the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. The speculation and rumors are over the top, but Sony and Microsoft have done a great job keeping their cards hidden.
In today’s market it is a luxury to be able to hold off on specifics for as long as possible. Apple has historically been great about doing this and waiting until the last minute for major product details. When you know the demand for a product is greater than the supply it gives you a great deal of flexibility.
One of the biggest open questions is how supply constrained the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will be. This is a question that the companies themselves probably can not answer, so speculation is likely to continue until launch day.
With coronavirus going strong this is going to be a wild year. Both Sony and Facebook have cancelled their appearance at GDC. The Nintendo Switch and Oculus Quest have experienced production delays due to the virus. The eager consumer market may simply be forced to wait.
The June E3 show is normally a time when we get a great deal of new product reveal and hands-on testing. However, Sony is not even attending E3 this year.
On Valentine’s Day Xbox head Phil Spencer tweeted “tons to talk about between now and E3 & deep portfolio of XGS games for E3.” Many observers grasping at crumbs took this as a sign that they will get hands on with the Xbox Series X at E3.
The problem for Microsoft is that if they show off the Xbox Series X before Sony this spring, it gives the PlayStation 5 the chance to grab the spotlight at the end of summer heading into fall.
Our focus over the next few months is tracking over 300+ games in development that will impact the market both this holiday season and well into 2021. Right now, the focus is almost entirely on games for the PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC. Hopefully after E3 we will at least have a better read on the software lineup for the new game systems. Phil Spencer gave us that promise.
Nevertheless, we are expecting mass disappointment and lots of criticism, even as consumers fight over limited early shipments.