What’s With The Gap In Gaming Releases?

The month of March was a particularly loaded month for game releases. March 6th saw Mass Effect 3, Street Fighter X Tekken, and the yearly baseball games. March 13th brought us Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations, Silent Hill Downpour, Yakuza: Dead Souls, Tales of Graces F, and the excellent PSN title Journey. Last week, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, Ninja Gaiden 3, Kid Icarus: Uprising, and Armored Core V led the charge.

All of a sudden…crickets.

This week gives us Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13…and that’s practically it. Next week is Devil May Cry HD Collection and Xenoblade Chronicles. The week after, April 10…NOTHING. April 17 the Witcher 2 hits consoles, and April 24th sees Prototype 2. That’s FIVE high-profile games in a full calendar month. After that, May is just as barren aside from the May 15th Diablo III/Max Payne 3 one-two punch.

Let’s rewind to November 15th 2011, which saw Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, Rayman Origins, Saints Row The Third, and Halo Anniversary. That’s five high-profile games ON THE SAME DAY.

Yes, we all know that it’s because the holiday season is a big time for sales. I get it. But doesn’t it make just as much sense to release your game on a day where nothing else can compete with it? For instance, what if Bioshock Infinite hits stores on April 10, which has literally ZERO releases? Or if Assassin’s Creed III bucked the trend and launched on May 2nd? Call me crazy, but sales on those games would be INSANE, because they’d be the only games to choose!

There have been plenty of successful games that launch in the oft-ignored April-August months, including both inFAMOUS games (first one May 26th, 2009, second one DURING E3, June 7, 2011), Alan Wake and Red Dead Redemption (both May 18, 2010), and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (June 12, 2008). It is possible to be successful when releasing a game in the down months. Also, I can think of a few games that I LOVED, but wouldn’t even have tried if not for their being the only game available, like Catherine (July 26th, 2011), Nier (April 27th, 2010), and Sin and Punishment: Star Successor for Wii (June 27th, 2010).

Furthermore, and this is probably the most important point, but with a more spread out release schedule, the players buying these games would be able to better budget for them. Say Steve is an avid gamer, and he has three games in his sights: Borderlands 2, Far Cry 3, and Bioshock Infinite. Far Cry is September 4th, Borderlands 2 is September 18th, and Bioshock is October 16th. All three games release in a two-month period, so Steve may have some issues being able to save for all three of these games, what with other bills and expenses needing attention, not to mention the looming Christmas/Hanukkah season approaching. He may wait on Far Cry and Borderlands and focus solely on Bioshock, leaving Ubisoft in the dust and limiting 2K to one sale instead of two. Now, if Far Cry moved to August 14th, there’d be a full month between each release to help Steve prepare, and he may be able to get all three.

One cannot deny or shortchange the retail juggernaut that is the holiday season. Hell, I worked game retail from May 2007 to last September, including an August-January stint in the second largest mall in the country, I know exactly what happens from September to December. However, I’m wondering if game companies as a whole could benefit from spreading out releases, as more people could buy more from them. In that November 15th example above, I wanted to buy four of those games, but I only picked up two and one of those was a belated birthday gift. Why make gamers choose?

This is problem that is a bit unavoidable, as I’m sure game companies don’t share release dates with other companies. However, these people know when the dead times are, they’ve been that way for a few years now. If they adapted development schedules to fit these new release windows, wouldn’t we all be better off for it? I know I’d have a lot more buying potential if I needed to plan for one game instead of four.

Please, game companies, SPREAD IT ALL OUT.



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