It's not a surprise to have a rich holiday catalog of top-tier games when you're three years into a console cycle, but it is a bit shocking to have so many new hardware options.
Both Microsoft and Sony are offering refreshed versions of their Xbox One and PlayStation 4 systems this holiday season. And in Sony's case, it's actually two updated PS4s that are hitting the market — a slimmer version of the existing console and the PlayStation 4 Pro, a high-end system designed to appeal to hardcore gamers and videophiles, with an enhanced graphics chip and a focus on 4K video.
Nintendo's Wii U, meanwhile, is likely to limp through the holidays, as the company will launch its next generation system, called Switch, in March.
And amidst all of this, there are three virtual reality systems (including one from Sony) trying to turn gamers' heads. It might all sound a little confusing, but analysts say it could also mean a revenue bonanza for the industry.
"New consoles from both Microsoft and Sony are a clear positive for the industry, as new hardware sales drive increased software sales," says Ben Schachter of Macquarie Capital. "Additionally, Sony's introduction of PlayStation VR, while having limited near-term direct financial implications, should drive interest in the group and traffic to stores."
The fourth calendar quarter is a big one for the gaming industry, representing more than 40 percent of the industry's overall sales, according to The NPD Group. But it's also simply a great time to be a gamer.
This is when the heavy hitting franchises generally make their way to market. And this year, there are plenty to choose from.
Activision's "Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare" will take the series in a new direction — to outer space. That change has generated some of the biggest buzz in the last four years for the games, which have been released annually since 2003. (Wedbush Securities' Michael Pachter says he expects the game to be the year's most popular title.)
"Call of Duty" has stiffer competition from EA's "Battlefield 1" however. The World War One setting of the game has resonated with players and critics. And EA's "Titanfall 2" (from Respawn Entertainment, the development studio founded by the creators of "Call of Duty") is shaping up to be a big hit as well, as players battle each other (and engage in a new single-player campaign) in giant mechanized robots.
Other fast-paced titles to watch include Take-Two Interactive Software's "Mafia III," set in 1960s Louisiana, Bethesda's stealth-action fan favorite "Dishonored 2" and Ubisoft's "Watch Dogs 2," which casts players as an activist hacker in San Francisco.
Family-friendly titles are a bit less prevalent this year than last, but there are still some excellent suggestions. "Skylanders Imaginators" blends the popular toys-to-life game with user-generated content, letting players create their own heroes, rather than rely on the ones imagined by designers. And "Civilization VI" brings back the incredibly popular strategy series in glorious addictive fashion.
Other big games to watch include "Gears of War 4," Sony's long-in-the-making "The Last Guardian" and "Pokemon Sun" and "Pokemon Moon," which should give Nintendo's 3DS handheld system a boost.