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Battlefield, Skyrim, Uncharted, CoD: 2011's risky Xmas stuffing

Someone's set to suffer in gaming's busiest ever month, reckons Andy Robinson...

We've heard of over-indulging during the lead-up to Christmas, but this is getting ridiculous.

If CVG's publicly-voted E3 2011 Most-Anticipated Awards are anything to go by, you're likely planning to purchase EA's shooter stunner Battlefield 3 when it releases in October.

A week later, any core gamer worth his PS3 Trophies would have to sport the resilience of a Shaolin Monk to keep their Visa away from Uncharted 3.

Then, seven days after that, depending on which side of the FPS fence you sit, Activision's Modern Warfare 3 will tempt millions to reach for their wallet once more.

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From that point, another three days pass - and Bethesda's Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, CVG readers' most-anticipated game of the year hits shelves. As if you're going to be able to resist.

Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Halo Combat Evolved: Anniversary, Saints Row: The Third... you'll probably fancy them too, won't you? And they're all releasing on the same day - a week after Modern Warfare and Skyrim.

Chuck in Need for Speed: The Run, Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater on 3DS, plus the very likely addition of either Super Mario 3DS or Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and you're looking at quite likely the most expensive and over-crowded month video games have ever seen.

UK retailer GAME's told CVG it already expects November 2011 to be the biggest ever - a "massive 'AAA' month", which it plans to stuff full of celebrations for each mega-game release.

But industry experts aren't convinced it's going to end well. Surely, certainly, one - or some - of these triple-A monsters are going to suffer, and slip further down the release ladder for the good of all gaming?

There's a traditional necessity to get the big guns out in time for Christmas, and most of the games listed above aren't in direct competition with each other (the type of gamer excited for Need for Speed isn't necessarily going to buy Assassin's Creed, for example).

But surely putting Uncharted, Skyrim, CoD, Battlefield, Halo and Assassin's within a few weeks of each other isn't good for anyone - customers or sharp-suited games industry executives? Surely, soon someone's going to lose their nerve and sail to the sweet shores of 2012?

On the customer side of the counter, many will see their wallets weep at the sight of so many essential purchases impacting the High Street like a PS3-powered atom bomb.

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Even if you're minted enough to snap 'em all up, there's still a fierce issue of time - how are we going to squeeze in all that gaming gladness before St. Nick pops down the chimney?

In the board room it's going to come down to who's got the biggest cahoonas: EA's definitely brave enough to step into GAME a week before its biggest Activision rival, but does THQ want to release its flagship title on the same day as Ubisoft's biggest blockbuster?

And surely Skyrim - as incredible as it looks - will still be hit by Modern Warfare's aftershocks?

Last year we saw Christmas releases flee en masse to the haven of Q1 2011 - and already Mass Effect 3's held up the white flag and legged it into 2012. We don't think BioWare will be the last to suffer.

Respected Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter told CVG he thinks there's a "pretty low probability of any of them slipping," but if the delays do come it'll be specific titles that take the plunge.

"The only ones that have any risk are Skyrim and Saint's Row," he told CVG. "The former because Bethesda will launch when it's ready, and it won't hurt the game to move into February; the latter a very low probability, since it looks close to complete, and because THQ needs it in the holiday quarter, but given reviews on Homefront, they may choose to delay for more polish.

"I'd assign a 10 per cent risk to Saint's Row slipping," he concluded. "The others are really not all that competitive. CoD and Assassin's Creed always come out head-to-head, Halo is a re-issue, NFS and MGS don't compete with any of the others."

Will the most expensive four weeks of game spending go ahead with its release schedule fully intact? We don't think so. Or at least we hope not - our overdrafts have been hurt enough already.

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