The games industry could be about to enjoy its most lucrative mid-year sales period of all time. The launch of two of the most highly anticipated games in the history of the industry is expected to spark a domino effect that will lead to lots of new consoles being bought.

On 27 April the long-awaited Mario Kart Wii will finally be launched in North America for Nintendo’s Wii console. The game will have already come out by then in Europe and Japan. And 29 April will see the worldwide launch of perhaps the hottest title of 2008: Grand Theft Auto IV.

GTA IV will come out for both the Xbox 360 and PS3, and that means all three consoles are getting a hot new game in time to kick off the spring.

PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii set for sales boom

This is no ordinary launch period, either. Both the Nintendo Wii and the PlayStation 3 have been plagued by a perceived lack of quality titles over the last year. Gamers all over the world have been constantly complaining that there are not enough decent games to play on their new consoles.

So that magic week at the end of April will finally give Wii and PS3 gamers the boost they are looking for. Which means that a generous number of PS3, Wii and Xbox 360 gamers will be going out and buying one of the two games.

What’s more, the launch of these two colossal titles is also likely to enormously boost sales of the consoles themselves. With GTA IV, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, Metal Gear Solid 4 and Killzone 2 all coming out this year, there’s never been a better time to buy a Sony PS3.

Likewise, recent price cuts have seen Xbox 360 prices crash to an all-time low. You can now pick up an Arcade model for just £150 so there’s never been a better time to buy a 360.

And to complete the line-up, the release of all-time favourite Mario Kart on the Wii means that gamers have an even bigger reason to buy that console as well.

Come the end of April, the chiming of money entering the registers in games stores will be ringing out.

PlayStation 3 vs Xbox 360

“I'd expect GTA to boost sales of the Xbox 360 as it's the cheapest way to get your hands on the game, although it'll depend on how effectively Microsoft and Rockstar advertise it,” says Jon Hicks, editor of the Official Xbox 360 Magazine.

GTA is strongly associated with PlayStation, and I'd expect heavy promotion from Microsoft to emphasise its presence on Xbox 360, and advertise the exclusive downloadable content that Xbox will get later this year.

“[Grand Theft Auto is definitely] going to drive sales of new consoles, and it'll be interesting to see how many consumers go for PS3 because they're used to experiencing GTA on PlayStation, or Xbox 360 because it's cheaper and has more games - it'll depend on how effectively Microsoft markets Xbox 360 at this time. 

“Beyond that, though, I don't think now is a particularly good time to watch the fight between the two platforms. The long-delayed adoption of PS3 is going to be helped by GTA and major exclusives Gran Turismo and Metal Gear Solid 4 in the next few months, and I expect the price cut will nudge Xbox 360 sales a bit higher, but new releases are thin on the ground over summer - the real battleground is Christmas.

“Basically, we're going to see a massive, massive spike due to GTA, a slightly smaller PS3-only one with GT5 and MGS, and then it's all going to go a bit quiet over summer. Assuming that we don't plunge into recession and everybody stays home and plays games instead of going on holiday. Historically the game business does all its money over Christmas, it's almost unheard of that a seismic event like GTA comes along at a time like this.”

Nintendo Wii to get big boost

Chris Hicks at our sister gaming site CVG, says that Mario Kart Wii will give a similar boost to the Wii economy.

Mario Kart is the biggest title on the Wii this year and most important title for Nintendo gamers and fans,” he said.

“The Wii has been criticised by some gamers for neglecting them in favour of the casual gamer market, so the return of a fan favourite like Mario Kart is a chance for Nintendo to win them back over, especially after the lukewarm reception of the GameCube version.

“The game is also a huge test as to whether a game can appeal to both casual Wii players and Nintendo fans, given that the game supports two control modes – the racing wheel peripheral for casual gamers, and the classic controller for the fans.

“If Nintendo can make a game that both hardcore players and casual gamers love, then they can pretty much tie up the market.”