The game industry analysts, which include Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan, Ed Barton of Screen Digest and Jesse Divnich of EEDAR, were asked: "Which titles coming out for the holiday season do you predict will be hits? And which ones will struggle for gamers' money in the weak economy?"
Firstly, EEDAR's Jesse Divnich has the following to say on the matter:
"If any cuts are made out of a gamer's holiday budget, it will be those titles that they could do without: games like Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, which is an awesome game with great branding qualities. However, it simply does not stack up against the large list of AAA titles this holiday season.
Others include: Need for Speed Undercover (which has become a stale brand as of late), Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, Midnight Club: Los Angeles, and any other title that squeaks by with quality scores below 80 percent.
As consumers become more judicious with their discretionary income this holiday season, quality scores will likely have a bigger weight on a gamer's purchasing decision than in previous holidays."
In addition, Screen Digest's Barton was a little more non-specific and trend-based in his predictions, suggesting:
"Titles which might struggle for recognition, in one of the most competitive Christmas shopping seasons ever, include any game targeting more casual gamers and games based on new, non-licensed IP's.
Shelves at retail will be extremely crowded this Christmas and publishers must clearly communicate the benefits of their games, especially to more casual audiences who don't obsessively read every website preview."
Finally, Wedbush Morgan's Pachter made a number of specific predictions on titles that may disappoint compared to internal predictions, as follows:
"I'd say that the worst positioned are Midnight Club: Los Angeles (coming out in front of Need for Speed Undercover), Shaun White Snowboarding (the Wii version will do well, but is constrained by Wii Fit boards; the PS3 and 360 versions are not positioned well), Tomb Raider Underworld (a great franchise, but flying under the radar this holiday), and (waits for the slams from Gamasutra readers...) Animal Crossing: City Folk.
The last is a great franchise, but the Wii audience is dominated by the mass-market audience, and Animal Crossing is somewhat more hardcore than most Nintendo titles. I think that the game will do very well, but will likely be disappointing, relative to expectations."
[UPDATE: Michael Pachter has asked us to add the following addendum to his remarks: "When I commented on the likelihood of Midnight Club: Los Angeles being a disappointment launching in front of Need for Speed Undercover, I assumed (wrongly) that NFS would get solid ratings (it got 60s), and that MC would get fair ratings (it got solid 80s). Given the juxtaposition in their ratings, I now think that Midnight Club will perform in line with expectations."]