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Holiday Hot Sellers Attack Retail Shelves

8 Nov, 2003 By: John Gaudiosi

It's crunch time for the video game industry. The months of November and December traditionally account for approximately 55 percent of the game industry's annual sales. Between September and Christmas, the game publishers flood the retail channel with software, and game manufacturers start a marketing blitzkrieg for their hardware. By the end of this year, 1,500 game titles will have shipped for PC, consoles and portable devices.

It's All About the Game
The ever-lowering price tag of the hardware helps, but in the video game business, it's all about the games. Exclusive games are key to any platform's success -- just look at what Sony's PlayStation 2 was able to do with the Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City exclusives over the past two years. The Take-Two ‘Mature'-rated blockbusters have sold more than 25 million units worldwide. This year marks the first time that these two games, packed together for $40, will be available for the Xbox. So look for Grand Theft Auto to be a blockbuster yet again, but this time on Microsoft's system.

Activision's True Crime: Streets of LA should be one of the best-selling games of 2003 and give Grand Theft Auto a run for its money. Shipping across all platforms, this game puts players in the role of an ex-cop out to take down an organized crime syndicate. The graphically detailed 240 square miles of Los Angeles are far more realistic than anything in Grand Theft Auto. And the game's storyline, which is propelled by Hollywood voice work by the likes of Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman and Michelle Rodriguez, is excellent.

Electronic Arts has several big multiplatform hits, even with its James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing delayed until March 8, 2004. EA Sports' Madden 2004 has already sold more than 2 million units and should top 4 million by year's end. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is a guaranteed blockbuster on the big screen and in the games business. EA has had a team of more than 100 working on this title, which brings multiplayer cooperative gameplay (and online questing on the PS2 version) to Peter Jackson's epic finale. With sets and actors digitized from the film, this game truly re-creates the rich world of the films and focuses on action sequences from the big screen.

Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup, available for all platforms, will keep the Potter success going in the game world. The first two games, each based on a movie and book, sold nearly 5 million units in the United States. This game turns Quidditch into a full-fledged sport complete with international teams.

Medal of Honor: Rising Sun is the latest installment in the best-selling WWII series originally created by Steven Spielberg. The epic story starts with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and then follows the Allied assault on Asia. The PS2 version adds online gameplay to the mix.

The fifth installment of Activision's skateboarding franchise, Tony Hawk's Underground, should sell well across all platforms. The game's focus now puts the player inside the game world to compete against pro skaters. Ubi Soft's revival of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a guaranteed multiplatform winner. Take-Two's gritty cop drama, Max Payne 2, which ships for Xbox and PS2, should be another million seller. And Namco's fighter Soul Calibur II has already sold more than 1 million units.

PS2 Exclusives
On the exclusive PlayStation 2 front, Sony has a strong lineup that includes Jak II (the original sold 1.6 million units) and SOCOM II (last year's original sold more than 2 million copies worldwide). Jak II is a ‘teen'-rated game that blends platform action with the ability to interact with a living, breathing futuristic city. SOCOM II puts players in the boots of Navy SEALS for online first-person, team-based combat. Square Enix' Final Fantasy X-2, a sequel featuring anime babes with weapons, should follow in that franchise's string of million-plus sellers. Konami's PS2 debut of Castlevania: Lament of Innocence is also a strong contender that should appeal to both hard-core and casual gamers. Take-Two's on-the-run thriller Manhunt, which should attract the legions of fans from Grand Theft Auto, has a good shot at being a sleeper hit this fall.

Xbox First-Party Line Up
Microsoft's first-party lineup of exclusive games includes the air combat game, Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, Project Gotham Racing 2 and the team-based combat game, Counter Strike. Exclusive titles like LucasArts' Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, Ubi Soft's Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3, Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden and the aforementioned Take-Two Grand Theft Auto twin- pack should top the Xbox sales charts.

Mario to the Rescue
Nintendo's relying on Mario to help lure new consumers to its $99 GameCube. Mario Kart: Double Dash, a slick new multiplayer racer that's fun for all ages, and Mario Party 5 are both shipping for GameCube. Nintendo also has F-Zero GX and 1080 Avalanche as exclusives. LucasArts' Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike puts players in the original “Star Wars” universe with fantastic results. Also noteworthy, but unlikely to sell huge numbers, is Capcom's Viewtiful Joe, a new take on 2-D platforming.

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