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E3 2019 – Reflections on a changing industry

Joan Ramsay
NPD Director of Entertainment Client Development and Industry Analyst


As I return from the mania that occurs at E3 to the mania that is the Toronto Raptors there is a lot to be excited about. There was a different vibe to E3 this year without Sony Playstation and a couple of leading third party publishers exhibiting, but there was still a lot to see and get excited about as our industry continues to evolve.

Streaming Services

E3 started early with a pre-event announcement from Google Stadia. There are still some big questions to be answered, but we do know that the main product is the Stadia Founder’s Edition, with a $169 price tag, or a subscription service of $11.99/month for Stadia Pro. Very little exclusive content was released, which historically has been important to the launch of a new system. Having had an opportunity to talk to many third party publishers about their strategy for Stadia, it was clear that some have elected to partner with Stadia from the start, and some are taking more of a “wait and see” approach. Stadia is launching in November, but I expect that we won’t see much of an impact until into 2020.

Microsoft Project xCloud – We didn’t learn too much more about this at E3, but what we do know is that rather than being a new service like Stadia, Project xCloud offers convenience and choice, allowing gamers to migrate their gameplay from console to PC to their phone. xCloud is an extension of the xbox offering, and the increased accessibility will be appealing to gamers and may have a positive impact on console sales.

New subscription programs

Microsoft announced its Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription which gives subscribers access to a wide variety of content across xbox and PC, all for $16.99 a month. Ubisoft followed suit at their press conference and announced a September launch of its UPLAY+ service, a PC subscription service for the Ubisoft catalog. Subscription spending is a growth area for the videogame industry, and I expect that this will only continue to increase over both the short and long term.

Next gen announcements

Microsoft gave us a bit more information about its next generation hardware, codenamed Xbox Project Scarlett. We know that it is scheduled to release in holiday 2020, along with Halo Infinite, the latest iteration of the Halo franchise. Without Sony Playstation participating at E3 there were no hints about what Sony’s next gen hardware may offer.

Happening now

Nintendo Switch is the best selling hardware to date in 2019 as it enters its third year, and is the only platform showing growth. Nintendo showed software in their booth that is destined to be amongst the best selling titles of the year including Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, Luigi’s Mansion 3 and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I expect that Nintendo’s leadership will continue through 2019 with strong software driving hardware sales, and that they will again finish with the strongest hardware sales and likely physical software as well.

2019 Best Software Bets

There were a lot of big games featured at E3 that will be releasing in March/April 2020, so next year should have a very strong start, prior to the expected transition to next gen consoles.

While I don’t expect 2019 software sales to match 2018, there are still many highly anticipated titles coming later this year. For 2019, the dozen leading titles that I expect will drive the back half of the year are:

Title Publisher
Borderlands 3 Take 2 Interactive (Corp)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Activision Blizzard (Corp)
Death Stranding Sony (Corp)
Doom Eternal* Bethesda Softworks
Gears 5 Microsoft
Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening* Nintendo
NBA 2K20 Take 2 Interactive (Corp)
NHL 2020 Electronic Arts
Pokemon Shield/Pokemon Sword (treating as 1 sku)* Nintendo
Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order Electronic Arts
Super Mario Maker 2* Nintendo
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint Ubisoft

*Digital not included.

Based on what we saw at E3, 2019 promises to be a year of transition. There will be new ways to source content with new streaming alternatives and subscriptions as well as continued strong sales from proven game franchises. As always, it all starts with great gameplay, which will drive publisher and industry success.

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