2015 is shaping up to be one the greatest years in the history of video gaming. A combination of exciting new concepts (Splatoon, Evolve, No Man's Sky) and established franchises (Final Fantasy, Batman: Arkham, Mortal Kombat) should have gamers opening their wallets for software, and spending countless hours in front of their entertainment centers.
In total, there are perhaps two dozen different games one might consider highly anticipated, but a few in particular stand out. Below are three of the most highly anticipated games, ones that should define their respective consoles, and dominate sales charts when they make their debuts in 2015.
Halo 5: Guardians
Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox One could get its first must-have exclusive in 2015: The next entry in its popular Halo franchise, Halo 5: Guardians, is set to go on sale this fall. Halo is by far Microsoft's most popular gaming-related IP -- references to the series have seeped into Microsoft's other products, most notably, its personal digital assistant, Cortana (named after a Halo character).
Nearly every entry in the Halo series has been an immense critical and commercial success. The most recent original release, Halo 4, generated $220 million its first day on sale -- significant for a game that was exclusive to one console, Microsoft's Xbox 360.
The Xbox One has seen a more rapid adoption than its predecessor, but its install base is unlikely to come close to where the Xbox 360's was in 2012. For that reason, Halo 5 may struggle to top the Halo 4's early sales, but it should be among the most desired games for owners of Microsoft's console in 2015.
The Legend of Zelda (Wii U)
Nintendo's (OTC:NTDOY) Wii U has been a commercial disappointment -- sales of the console have fallen far short of its own expectations, and barring a dramatic turnaround in fortune, the Wii U is likely to finish among Nintendo's worst-selling video game consoles of all time.
But despite the disappointment, Nintendo is sticking by its device, and plans to release another entry in its iconic Legend of Zelda series for the console next fall.
The next Legend of Zelda could differ from its predecessors by offering a more open world: Gameplay videos suggest an immense map, one that players will be able to explore. The trend toward more open world games has been steadily building in the RPG genre, led by popular titles such as Skyrim. An open world Zelda would be a break from recent entries in the series, but would represent a return to its more exploration-aimed origins.
Sony's (NYSE:SNE) Uncharted franchise will make its PlayStation 4 debut in 2015. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is expected to go on sale in time for the holiday shopping season.
Previous entries in the Uncharted franchise have been both a critical and commercial success. Uncharted 2 is commonly cited as one of the best games of the last decade; its successor, Uncharted 3, was likewise favorably reviewed, and shipped millions. As a PlayStation exclusive, Uncharted's sales have been limited, but Uncharted 3 was among 2011's best-selling games.
Uncharted 4 carries the momentum of its predecessors, but should also benefit from a wave of positive media attention. To spark interest, Sony has been offering up footage of the game -- and the reception has been almost universally positive.
Business Insider declared that "even people that hate video games will be blown away by how realistic [it is]." Geek wrote that the game appeared "off the charts." If the early footage is true to the finished product, Uncharted 4 could be one of the best-looking video games ever made.