Three of gaming's biggest franchises are set to battle it out in Holiday 2021, and the strong competition could affect overall sales revenues and impact yearly earnings.
Holiday 2021 is going to be packed. Things were already pretty heated with a new Call of Duty and Battlefield game set to duel during the period, but Rockstar fanned the flames by confirming a November launch for its Grand Theft Auto V re-release on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Granted the next-gen console install base is still somewhat small, but given the game's massive momentum with 145 million sales and billions earned over the last 7 years, it's still extra pressure on competitors.
Company executives haven't directly commented on the congested release slate, however both Activision and EA have set conservative expectations for Call of Duty and Battlefield. Activision has said they expect lower sales for Sledgehammer's new WWII-focused Call of Duty Vanguard when compared to Black Ops Cold War, but it's likely that Battlefield's competition also had something to do with those expectations.
"In our guidance, you know we're traditionally conservative. So in our guidance for Battlefield, we have a lot of expectations, a lot of excitement, but I would tell you we don't have a number that is unachievable there. I think we clearly can achieve it and we hope to exceed it because we know that the Battlefield title is going to be very strong," EA CFO Blake Jorgensen said in a recent earnings call.
"In our outlook, we are conservatively assuming Call of Duty premium units are lower year-over-year. However, with opportunities in in-game across all platforms, including the ramp-up of Call of Duty mobile in China, we do expect growth in net bookings overall for the Call of Duty franchise," Ex-Activision CFO Dennis Durkin said in March.
Take-Two hasn't commented much on the expected performance of the Grand Theft Auto V re-release. Company CEO Strauss Zelnick said in a FY2021 that he expects GTA V and GTA Online revenues to moderate, but he's been saying that for years and the game has consistently outperformed expectations.
November will particularly fiery as GTA and CoD go head-to-head. Rockstar already confirmed a November 11 release for GTA V on PS5/Series X, and Call of Duty games traditionally release in the November period every year.
The good news is GTA V's re-release is next-gen exclusive. EA already confirmed Battlefield 6 is cross-gen, and we should expect Call of Duty Vanguard to also be cross-gen in order to maximize sales and boost in-game monetization opportunities.
EA has yet to announce Battlefield's release date.