The internet is buzzing this week about the new gameplay reveal trailer for Rockstar's highly anticipated Grand Theft Auto V, which ships on September 17 for PS3 and Xbox 360. So far, there's been no mention from Take-Two or Rockstar about GTA V for next-gen systems, and most gamers probably don't care. The economy is still troubled, money is tight for consumers, and rather than shell out $399 for the PS4 or $499 for the Xbox One (in addition to $60 minimum for a new game on either next-gen platform), consumers can get tons of entertainment value with blockbuster games for current-gen this holiday.
It's been the longest console cycle in history, and while it's easy to come away with a sense of hype from E3 for the new consoles, the average consumer is quite happy with the existing systems. IDC research manager Lewis Ward told GamesIndustry International that purchase intent for Xbox One and PS4 isn't as high as it could be.
"We did a survey of 25 countries in 2Q13 and one the surprising takeaways was that demand for new consoles isn't shaping up to be particularly strong in the US this holiday season. In fact, the US landed in the bottom 5 when viewed from the perspective of the share of console gamers that indicated they're likely to buy a new console in the next 12 months," Ward told us.
"a lot of gamers are going to stick by their Xbox 360s, Wii/Wii Us, and PS3s at least until the 2014 holiday season, when the game catalog will be a lot bigger and some of the online kinks will have been worked out"
"That says to me that a lot of gamers are going to stick by their Xbox 360s, Wii/Wii Us, and PS3s at least until the 2014 holiday season, when the game catalog will be a lot bigger and some of the online kinks will have been worked out. That also means that games like GTA V should have plenty of runway to sell well in the meantime, as long as they deliver the goods. I don't think social factors like the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman trial will derail the success of GTA V but the game will do doubt catch flak for being too violent and encouraging vigilantes."
Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter and EEDAR's Jesse Divnich aren't buying the argument, however.
"I don't think it will have a material impact on console sales. Consoles launch at the same time as big games all the time, it's part of the ecosystem. If anything, I think that its lack of availability on next generation consoles could limit catalog sales of GTA next year, but it's pretty early to be making that call," Pachter noted.
Divnich still remains confident that Xbox One and PS4 will both have a very strong holiday: "Even with the hype of E3 being in our rear view mirror, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One continue to stay at the top of the charts on Amazon.com. Consumers are clearly excited for the next generation of consoles to launch."
"I don't foresee one current generation game, no matter how large it is, impacting the start of the next generation of consoles," he continued. "The launch of the next generation consoles are likely to have an impact on current generation sales this holiday season. It's a transitional year, it is to be expected, and we anticipate an overall net gain for the industry because of it. But September releases are far enough away from the blast radius of the new console launches that September releases shouldn't feel the squeeze."
"GTA V is obviously going to set new sales records. I'd expect the game to have a positive influence on hardware sales, particularly when bundled with hardware by retailers"
Interestingly, Divnich theorizes that GTA V could actually spark next-gen sales even without having its own next-gen SKU. "Games like Halo, Battlefield, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto awaken a lot of dormant games. If anything, a big September release could cause millions of dormant gamers to get excited again for HD gaming, and that engagement could funnel over to an even bigger start for the next generation consoles," he continued. "Money was tight in 2008, but that didn't stop the industry from producing record sales. At that time, video games were considered recession proof."
Independent analyst Billy Pidgeon agrees and he sees Rockstar's latest open-world epic once again topping the charts.
"GTA V is obviously going to set new sales records. I'd expect the game to have a positive influence on hardware sales, particularly when bundled with hardware by retailers. If there are concurrent price drops for Xbox 360 and PS3, that positive effect will be even stronger," he said.
The downside for developers who are shipping anything but AAA this holiday is that they could be drowned out by the big-budget franchises. "There will be other big software sellers coming out in 2013 for the current hardware beside GTA V, including Assassin's Creed, Madden and Call of Duty. Games in similar genres that are not up to these games' levels of quality and popularity could sell more weakly not only due to lower consumer spending but also because the big games will monopolize gamers' leisure time," Pidgeon said.