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Q&A with video game prognosticator Michael Pachter
When it comes to predicting the future of video gaming, Michael Pachter is widely regarded as something of a Nostradamus.
With 2012 drawing to a close and most of the big holiday releases already out, I turned to Pachter, who is Wedbush Securities’ managing director, to get his take on the year in gaming and what he thinks 2013 has in store. Read on to find out the future of the Wii U and when you can expect new consoles from Microsoft and Sony.
The Gazette: Regardless of sales numbers, what games do you think were the big winners in 2012?
Michael Pachter: I think “Call of Duty” was the biggest winner, but for reasons you may have overlooked. First, “Grand Theft Auto V” moved out of the holiday window, so that means most gamers have an extra $60 in their pockets when “Call of Duty” launched. Second, and probably even more importantly, “Medal of Honor” was a bad game and didn’t take away market share like most expected. The clear beneficiary is “CoD.”
Gazette: Which of the big three consoles do you think fared best this year?
Pachter: This was a quiet year for the consoles and all three saw sales declines of 30 percent or more. It’s hard to consider any of them a “winner” but the clear loser was the Wii, which saw sales drop by over 55 percent. It’s impossible to call the other two “winners” but they fared a lot better. Price cuts will fix all of this.
Gazette: What title earns your vote for Game of the Year?
Pachter: I am a huge fan of “Borderlands 2.” It won’t win but I thought it was really well done, a lot better than the first one. It was especially funny and fun to play.
Gazette: With the exception of a few titles — most notably “Dishonored” — 2012 seems to be another year again dominated by sequels. Why are new IPs (intellectual properties) so hard to come by?
Pachter: New IPs require developers and publishers to plan three years out and three years ago nobody was sure if we were going to have new consoles by now. So there was a reluctance to make a game for current generation consoles that could be obsolete by the time it was released. It’s a function of risk versus reward and most people thought new IP was too risky.
Gazette: Let’s talk about the Wii U. There just doesn’t seem to be much buzz surrounding the system. Why is that?
Pachter: I think the biggest reason for the low buzz on the Wii U is that Nintendo hasn’t made a serious effort to market it to the masses. This is probably by design, as they realize that they will be supply constrained for at least the first several months. Let’s see what they do at launch to support it and re-evaluate.
Gazette: What needs to happen for the Wii U to be successful? What can derail it?
Pachter: The Wii U will be more successful than the GameCube and less successful than the Wii. Nintendo has done a great job of building brand equity with its customers and I am sure that most will consider a purchase, but the ultimate decision about which console to buy comes down to price and the availability of software. If people view the Wii U as an inexpensive next generation console, they are likely to embrace the price points. If instead they view it as an expensive current generation console, it is not clear to me that they will embrace the price points.
I think inexpensive ($300 or so) next generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft could derail the Wii U’s chances of success and lack of third party software support could also hurt it. Let’s see what Sony, Microsoft and third-party publishers do before reaching a conclusion.
Gazette: When do you think Sony and Microsoft will announce their new consoles? And when should gamers expect to see them in stores and do you have any insight on their new features?
Pachter: Sony could announce as early as (March), depending on when they plan a console launch. I think Microsoft is intent upon stealing the spotlight at E3, so I expect their announcement then. Both should be in stores between October 2013 and February 2014 (allowing for production missteps), both likely in November. Sony likely won’t have many features that are new/different, although I expect a revamp of the PlayStation Network to make it more like Xbox Live. Microsoft is likely to have a lot of new multi-media features, most notably, my guess only, no actual knowledge or information, a television tuner that will allow consumers to replace cable TV boxes with their new Xbox.