As the holidays draw near, the number of new video games coming to market always reaches some sort of critical mass, making it hard for players to decide how to spend their money. But even by the usual crazy standards of the gaming world, this week is just bonkers.
Nintendo’s long-awaited and much anticipated Super Mario Odyssey will hit shelves on Friday and should push demand for the company’s Switch console into overdrive. The game, arguably the most anticipated of the fall season, has received near perfect reviews from critics. And consumer interest in those reviews is so strong that the Metacritic website, which acts as a clearinghouse for reviews, was crashing on Thursday.
Normally, publishers would steer clear of a release date near the launch of a title that big, as they do with Grand Theft Auto games. But it’s the holiday season—and the fight for players is fierce this year. Also coming out this week are Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Bethesda Softworks’ Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.
Both games are getting solid reviews as well—and normally would be events unto themselves. Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft’s top franchise, took last year off to give developers an extra year to polish the game and revitalize the franchise. This year’s entry is set in ancient Egypt. Wolfenstein, meanwhile, sticks to its shooter roots, but the storyline of complicity in a Nazi America has stuck a number of chords after white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville and the furor that arose with Donald Trump’s comments after the event.
There’s even more action on deck for next week when Activision’s Call of Duty: WWII hits shelves on Nov. 3. That game is also expected to be one of the year’s top sellers.
Game sales have been on the rise as the holidays draw near. In September, consumers spent $726 million on games, a 52% increase from the same period last year. Year to date, consumer spending is at $3.7 billion, up 7% compared to year ago with the year’s three biggest months to come.
Sales of video game hardware (including Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One), meanwhile, were up 34% to $316 million. Overall this year, hardware spending has hit $2.1 billion, up 20% versus 2016. Microsoft hopes to increase that even more with the Nov. 7 launch of its top-end Xbox One X system.