Major games, such as Black Ops 2 and Halo 4, are seeing retail revenue contract slowly during the holiday season each year, as demonstrated by the above graph. Games outside of the top 20, however, are experiencing a holiday revenue decline by a compound annual growth rate of approximately 11 percent.
"Consider games like Sleeping Dogs and Darksiders 2, each of which sold under 300,000 units in August and then disappeared from the top 10 by September," Matthews says. "These middle-tier titles fall by the wayside when they don't get the first-class promotions of titles like New Super Mario Bros. 2, which is now over 500,000 units in its second month on a platform with fewer than 6 million owners."
This holiday season matters more than previous years, as publishers have moved most of their major launches to October at least, potentially shifting the "middle of the retail year" from September to October for the first time this generation. Games with a surplus of marketing money, such as Borderlands 2, New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Madden NFL 13, are selling almost disproportionately well, which bodes well for this holiday's major hits.
"However, I think it likely that other titles, like say XCOM: Enemy Unknown, are on the edge and at risk of being overlooked by gamers who appear to have become more discerning with the money they're spending on games," Matthews says. XCOM will remain a hit in our hearts, at least.