I have been hearing a lot of journalists and gamers saying “this is a slow time for game releases.” Is it? I’m sorry but that’s news to me. January just ended. Usually a whole bunch of new releases come out around this time to take advantage of the boatload of holiday money left over in people’s pockets. Yet everyone is acting like its pretty natural for the beginning of the year to be a video game wasteland.
What about the summer slums? The time between E3 and the beginning of September has also been called a bit of a wasteland. Everyone has just shown off their biggest titles at E3 and gamers are excited for the next big releases, but those come later in the year. Also, the time right before E3 is also called a wasteland because all the big companies are preparing for E3. In fact, all of summer is considered a wasteland because everyone expects people to be outside playing in the sun rather than inside playing video games.
This is my issue with the idea of an “off season” for video games. It feels like half the year is supposed to be off season for video games. At this point, if the beginning of the year and the whole summer are both off season, we have only a couple months in the spring and the holiday season to really expect major releases to come out.
Then we have the release schedule itself to contend with. When a big release like Call of Duty comes out, competing games try very hard to not release on the same weekend. This means that big releases try to space themselves out in a very limited time span. As more and more cram into small spaces, we see more and more titles get delayed, pushed up, or otherwise changed, and soon the release schedule looks like a total mess.
Don’t get me wrong, I entirely understand timing your releases near the holidays because hey, people spend more at that tim, so you stand to make more money. But I think that gives us tunnel vision as gamers. I mean, just look at the end of the year award ceremonies. Most of the games that were even nominated were games that came out around the end of the year. When discussing the “best of” the year we very often forget games released in January and February. Eventually, if you are looking for profit OR recognition you start releasing your games in September, October, November, and December, and that leaves the rest of the year very dry.
I think in a perfect universe game releases would be spread out across the whole year. Actually, I think in a perfect universe, our release schedule would be slightly separated by genre. Is it summer, when people like to get out? Release a bunch of party games and fighting games, games that people sit on the same couch to play. Is it winter and everyone wants to stay warm and inside? Release some games with awesome single player modes that eat away hundreds of hours of your life, like RPGs or strategy games. In the spring or fall you can release multiplayer online games, like shooters, so people can game in the cold nights, and water cooler talk about them in the bright days.
What do you think? Do you think the off season for games is far too long? Are we weighting our game releases too close to the end of the year? Let us know in the comments.