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Top 20 Games to Watch – Gamers Make Their Holiday Wish Lists

5 minute read | September 2011

Which video game titles top gamers’ wish lists this year? Nielsen’s Top 20 Games to Watch reveals the most anticipated games of the 2011 holiday season, with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 the most coveted among active U.S. gamers. The list was developed by examining a variety of consumer measures from Nielsen’s Video Game Tracking survey, including the top five titles active gamers are considering for purchase.

To help narrow the focus of this analysis, Nielsen filtered the field to those titles releasing on at least one of the three major consoles (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii) during the timeframe of late August to late November. This year’s list underscores the various interests of gamers—as well as the strength of video game brands. All but one of the Top 20 titles stem from a franchise, with brands such as Madden NFL and The Legend of Zelda dating back more than 20 years. Deep Silver’s Dead Island represents the lone new IP included on this year’s list.

Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, an expected juggernaut for this holiday season, is desired by more than one quarter (27%) of active gamers. Microsoft’s Gears of War 3 and EA’s Madden NFL 12 follow closely behind; both titles were selected by nearly one out of every five (19%) active gamers. Apart from Gears of War 3 for Xbox 360, other platform exclusives expected to resonate strongly with consumers in the coming months include Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for Wii and Sony’s Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception for PS3.

Nielsen’s Top 20 Games to Watch is supplemented by information from NM Incite, a Nielsen McKinsey company, which analyzed the primary elements driving consumers’ online conversations around each title. Recent consumer buzz shows that those anticipating Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Revelations are excited for the return of multi-player functionality to the franchise, while gamers looking forward to Warner Bros Interactive’s Batman: Arkham City are speculating on the villains they’ll face in the new title. Fans of EA’s FIFA franchise are hoping for more pro and career mode options in the upcoming iteration, and those addicted to Microsoft’s Dance Central are rejoicing in the news that they’ll be able to import tracks from the original title into the sequel.

Nielsen’s Top 20 Games to Watch for Holiday 2011
Title Genre Platforms Publisher % Choosing

as Top 5

Key Elements of Online Conversations
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Shooter 360, PS3, Wii, PC Activision 27% upcoming launch parties, changes in the new game, ‘darker mood’, hardened version vs standard
Gears of War 3 Shooter 360 Microsoft Game Studios 19% high anticipation for launch, best prices at retailers, sharing info on codes and downloads
Madden NFL 12 Sports (Simulated) 360, PS3, Wii, PSP Electronic Arts 19% challenge matches, calling in sick in order to play
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations Action / Adv 360, PS3, PC Ubisoft 17% downloadable previews, multi-player functionality
Batman: Arkham City Action / Adv 360, PS3, PC Warner Bros Interactive 15% new villains in the game
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Action / Adv Wii Nintendo 14% nostalgia for series brings back ‘old school’ gamers, similar feel to Ocarina Of Time
Battlefield 3 Shooter 360, PS3, PC Electronic Arts 12% many feel this title is superior to competing titles in the genre, differences in game performance by platform
Just Dance 3 Music / Rhythm 360, PS3, Wii Ubisoft 12% excitement for new tracks announced
NBA 2K12 Sports (Simulated) 360, PS3, Wii, PC, PSP 2K Interactive 9% online demos, discussions of how to adjust schedule to allow more time to play
Need for Speed: The Run Racing / Driving 360, PS3, Wii, PC, 3DS Electronic Arts 9% exclusive Porsche models in the game, anticipation as a holiday gift
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Action / Adv PS3 Sony Computer Entertainment 9% high expectations of this title being even better than the previous iterations
Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games Sports (Arcade) Wii, 3DS SEGA 8% gaming experts mention this title alongside other titles announced at the 3DS conference
LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 Action / Adv 360, PS3, Wii, PC, PSP, DS, 3DS Warner Bros Interactive 8% sharing previews and speculation on the upcoming game
FIFA Soccer 12 Sports (Simulated) 360, PS3, Wii, PC, PSP, DS, 3DS Electronic Arts 8% FIFA vs Madden, desires for more pro and career mode options in the new release
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim RPG 360, PS3, PC Bethesda Softworks 8% M rating / graphic nature not a deterrent, daily countdown until release
Dead Island Action / Adv 360, PS3, PC Deep Silver 7% looking for gaming partners for online co-op
Kinect Sports: Season 2 Sports (Arcade) 360 Microsoft Game Studios 6% high expectations for the upcoming sequel, considerable attention from casual gamers
Resistance 3 Shooter PS3 Sony Computer Entertainment 4% franchise fans call it a ‘must have’ ‘game of the year’
Dance Central 2 Music / Rhythm 360 Microsoft Game Studios 4% enthusiasm for the ability to import songs from the original title
Deus Ex: Human Revolution Shooter 360, PS3, PC Square Enix 3% best prices at retailers, differences in game performance by platform
Source: Nielsen

While Action/Adventure games hold the most spots in the Top 20, the list is a testament to the diverse interests of today’s gamers—from the intense action of First Person Shooters like Square Enix’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution, to the energetic enthusiasm of Music / Rhythm games such as Ubisoft’s Just Dance 3, to the epic sense of adventure in Bethesda’s RPG Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Sports and racing titles like 2K’s NBA 2K12 and EA’s Need For Speed: The Run are represented as well.

* Data collected between the timeframe of August 21 – September 17, during which ~ 5,000 active gamers were interviewed for Video Game Tracking via online survey, and 417,433,251 online conversations were examined by NM Incite.

** Top 5 is the proportion of respondents that rank each title in their top five titles being considered for purchase. Percents shown are among those active gamers that qualify for at least one platform on which the title is being released.

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