2015 is shaping up to be one of the greatest years in the history of video gaming: The calendar is simply stacked with highly anticipated titles -- from February onward, virtually every month features at least one planned release that could seriously compete for Game of the Year.
But with so many anticipated games, a handful are likely to slip through the cracks. Though it's difficult to say for certain, below are three such games that could ultimately experience disappointing sales.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
The sequel to 2013's Tomb Raider reboot, Rise of the Tomb Raider is scheduled to go on sale next fall. If it's anything like its predecessor, it could be one of the year's best games (Tomb Raider received plenty of critical praise), but sales may ultimately underwhelm.
In total, Tomb Raider sold 6.5 million copies in its first 15 months on sale. That doesn't qualify as a bomb, but it did fall short of publisher Square Enix's expectations despite enjoying a release on nearly every major platform (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC).
Its sequel won't have that luxury: In the summer, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider would be an Xbox One exclusive (an eventual release on other platforms has not been ruled out, but no concrete plans have been offered). It generated a fair amount of controversy, but could benefit Microsoft -- swaying some diehard Tomb Raider fans to purchase the Xbox One instead of the competing PlayStation 4 -- but not Rise of the Tomb Raider's sales. Microsoft's console has lagged the PlayStation 4, potentially limiting the game's customer base.
The Legend of Zelda (Wii U)
The Legend of Zelda for Nintendo's (NASDAQOTH:NTDOY) Wii U could suffer a similar fate. While it may be a part of gaming's most iconic series, the latest entry will be hamstrung by an extremely limited install base.
Nintendo's living room video game console, the Wii U, has been a commercial disappointment, falling far short of Nintendo's sales expectations. Barring a dramatic turnaround, the Wii U is on pace to sell fewer than 20 million units over its projected lifetime, which would make it one of Nintendo's worst-selling video game consoles ever, and represent a dramatic drop from its predecessor, the Wii, which sold more than 100 million units.
Even with such a large install base, the last living room entry in The Legend of Zelda series, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, sold fewer than 5 million units. Admittedly, that Zelda entry was controversial, attracting a level of negative attention unusual for a Zelda game, but it could also suggest an ominous sales trend for 2015's follow-up.
Call of Duty (2015)
Activison-Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) has yet to announce the next entry in its massively popular Call of Duty series, but given that the franchise has received an annual installment since its inception, it's a safe bet there will be a new Call of Duty in 2015.
But its commercial success is far less certain. Although it has consistently topped the sales charts, Call of Duty's popularity appears to have peaked in 2011, and the first-person shooter has suffered from regular, steady declines on an annual basis ever since.
In 2015, growing gamer apathy could be intensified by a strong slate of competitors: Whereas this year's Call of Duty, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, benefited from a weak competitive lineup, 2015's Call of Duty will go up against a number of highly anticipated shooters, including Star Wars: Battlefront and Halo 5: Guardians. An outright commercial bomb would be surprising, but relative to its predecessors, the next Call of Duty could be underwhelming.
Sam Mattera owns shares of Activision Blizzard. The Motley Fool recommends Activision Blizzard. The Motley Fool owns shares of Activision Blizzard and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.