The last three months of the year tend to fit the Dickensian cliché as the best of times and the worst of times for gamers. They're the best because a ridiculous number of high profile games come out - this year's season saw the release of highly anticipated games like Call of Duty 4, Crysis, Super Mario Galaxy, Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect and Rock Band, all in a three-week period. It's the worst of times because, well, a ridiculous number of high profile games come out. A game aficionado has to spend a fortune and divide his attention to a ridiculous degree just to keep up.
Sure, there are worse problems for a gamer to have, but that glut certainly seems like a waste come April, when the holiday games have finally been played out and the shelves are practically empty. People play games throughout the year, yet publishers seem to think people will only buy them in a three-month period at year's end. Why can't publishers spread those AAA titles throughout the year a little bit more? Why can't the videogame release calendar be a little more balanced?
"Unfortunately the videogame industry has kind of gotten itself trapped in this cycle where everyone waits to put out their $25 million games on top of each other in a 12-week period," says Chris Kramer, Senior Director of Communications and Community for Capcom US. "That really can't be good. Even if you are the game of the moment, in [the holiday season] there probably was another game of the moment a week or two before you and probably another game of the moment a week or two after you."
To Kramer, publishers' focus on the last quarter of the year is a result of horribly circular logic. "It's one of those things where people tend to go and crunch a lot of numbers and say, 'Look at all these games that sold in the month of November. We must put our game in the month of November, because that is where all the games sold,'" Kramer says. "Well, no, the fact is, in July and August, only crap came out, so no one went and bought any games because there was only third-string licensed titles coming out for Game Boy Advance." In other words, the last quarter of the year sees 50 to 60 percent of the year's industry revenues because that's when 50 to 60 percent of the good games come out. If those same games came out at different times, they'd probably sell just as well, if not better.