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Five Video-Game Developments for 2010

Stocks in this article: SNE MSFT ATVI

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- The story of this year in video games has been much like the game itself: Its ending depended on how you played it.

Price drops on all three major consoles at the end of the summer left Nintendo's Wii in the lead, where it had been for much of the year, but gave Sony's (SNE) PlayStation 3 new life after being outsold by its PlayStation 2 predecessor in April. Microsoft's (MSFT) Xbox, meanwhile, watched its exclusivity agreement with Netflix (NFLX) evaporate and its percentage of overall sales dwindled to a one-point lead over the rival PS3 -- which relegated the Xbox's console sales to third place by year's end.

>>Photo Gallery: 15 Hot Video Games for This Holiday Season

Despite Activision's (ATVI) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 pulling in $310 million on its first day of sales, setting the single-day record and outdistancing the record $155 million three-day opening weekend for "The Dark Knight" in 2008, NPD Group predicts 2009 video game sales will be just below last year's $21.3 billion total. Will fortunes change in 2010, or will next year's score be just as much as 2009's? If you want some cheats, here are five developments to expect in 2010:

1. A huge first quarter: Much like in the movie industry, the first quarter is where video game companies usually dump their middling titles and ride it out. The first months of 2010, however, will see the release of potential blockbusters including Sony's God of War III, Square Enix's (9684) Final Fantasy XII, Take-Two Interactive's (TTWO) BioShock 2, Capcom's (9697) Lost Planet 2, Take-Two's Mafia 2, Ubisoft's (UBI) Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction, Electronic Arts' (ERTS) Dante's Inferno and Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

"The first quarter of 2010 is going to be the best Q1 ever in the history of video games," says Shane Satterfield, editor in chief of "It's going to destroy last year in terms of sales." Why this year? Blame cowardly video game companies that pushed back their products' release dates and surrendered the fourth quarter of 2009 to the juggernaut that was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which raked in $500 million in the first four days of its November release. It was a questionable strategy at best, as games like New Super Mario Brothers and Assassins Creed 2 are reaping the benefits from gamers who aren't into military shooters. In the best example, EA's Left 4 Dead 2 looked the bully in the eye by sticking to its release date and popped it in the mouth to the tune of 2 million copies sold in its first two weeks. Zombies have no fear.

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