The games of December 2010

Granted, most gamers are buried with holiday releases right about now, but it’s never too soon to start searching for the next big thing. What’s it going to be? We look to our own Editor in Chief Eric Bratcher and Director of Gaming Insights Nick Williams from the market research firm Ipsos OTX to tell us – with the help of 1,000 gamers who shared what they’re lusting after this month. We’ll show the top 10 here in the article, and you can see the rest of the list by pointing your mouse to this page.*

Eric Bratcher: Wow, Nick - you've got to love the holiday season. Five of last month's 10 most anticipated games finally hit shelves and moved from the most anticipated chart to the sales chart. As a result, the top 10 most anticipated list looks quite a bit different for December. What do you think of the new top 10?

Nick Williams: You are absolutely right. The new charts show a glimpse into what is shaping up to be a stellar 2011. GoW3, Zelda, and LBP are leading the way for the respective consoles, with WoW and Diablo attracting a ton of interest from PC gamers. Gears is the frontrunner for top game of 2011 at the moment, and it will be interesting to see how things develop in the next few months. From a core gamer standpoint, does the new list ring true for you? Any surprises?

Above: The game you want to play most in 2011, apparently. Fair choice

EB: Yes and no. The top 10 makes perfect sense if you look at it by itself (I'm still impressed that Mortal Kombat is in there, but we talked about that last month), but when I look at the extended portion, there are some oddities. For example, Final Fantasy XIV Online for PS3 is at number 12, just ahead of both versions of Batman: Arkham City in slots 13 & 18. And the PSP game Monster Hunter Freedom 3 is rocking in at 14. That puts it in front of Infamous 2 (slot 15) and a mile in front of every version of Dragon Age 2 (22, 44 and 52) and Portal 2 (26, 43 & 55). That's straight-up mind-boggling to me. True, Monster Hunter is a megafranchise in Japan, but it's odd to see a multiplayer-focused PSP RPG show up so high here in North America.

NW: Good points all around. In our survey, purchase intent for titles is asked among those who either own or plan to purchase the corresponding platform. So what this says more than anything is that Monster Hunter is performing extremely well among the PSP crowd. It is a little misleading to have it ranked so high in the charts, so we might look into tweaking the calculations in the coming months. Obviously Monster Hunter is not going to be in the top 25 top selling titles of 2011 in North America. Looking at Dragon Age and Portal 2, I expect these titles to move up the charts in Q1.

Above: Dragon Age 2 is going to rock your world. Where is the love?

Another thing that strikes me is the impressive number of first-party PS3 titles in the top 25. Sony has LBP2 (2), Killzone 3 (5), Twisted Metal (10), SOCOM 4 (11), FFXIV (12), Infamous 2 (15), while Microsoft only has GoW3 (1) and Nintendo has Zelda (2), and Mario Sports Mix (16). While Kinect seems to have the edge over Move (and the Wii), it looks like Sony has the edge in exlusive software in 2011. What are your thoughts on momentum in the console wars?

EB: Ha. I suppose there are two ways to look at the fact that Sony has so many big games primed for early 2011. The optimist would say Sony is clearly set to outcompete Microsoft in the coming quarter. But the pessimist would say that's what happens when most of your marquee titles all miss the holiday season, but your competitor hits its release dates. But whatever your outlook, the chart doesn't lie - Sony clearly has more bullets left in the clip at this moment.

As for momentum, it's really tough to see at the moment because the dust cloud kicked up by the holiday season and the release of both Move and Kinect hasn't settled yet. All three major players have already sent out press releases crowing about big sales - and they could all be correct. But you asked, so I'm going to give you a straight answer.

My gut feeling is that Move is actually a better game controller for any game that doesn't involve whole body movement (like dancing). But Kinect is fresher and has a sci-fi "it's the future!" coolness factor that makes it more appealing to the average person and the casual gamer, which is the market these devices are targeting. So I expect Kinect will win out over time, if not by the end of the holiday season.

Above: Are there any Move or Wii games that have a rubber raft peripheral? No? Winner!

As to which console will sell more this holiday, it's tough to guess. The PS3 and 360 have been catching up to the market-leading Wii during the rest of the year, but Wii tends to do really well over the holidays thanks to its youth appeal, so it might gain some ground back. Between 360 and PS3, I know the PS3 has been closing the gap, but I think Kinect is going to give the 360 some life. I'd expect 360 sales to outpace the PS3 this holiday, but for the PS3 to come back in Q1, when that lineup of big games starts arriving. But you're the analyst - I should be talking less and asking you. How do you see the pieces falling?