As we approach mid-summer everyone is looking ahead to the fall/holiday release schedule. Year after year the fall is when all major publishers and developers alike decide to unleash what they’ve worked so hard on to the eager and awaiting public. The strategy behind it is a no brainer: release around the major holidays and hope to sell an outrageous amount of units. With the demographics in the industry constantly changing and the average gamer getting older and older, the holiday release strategy is flawed, and here’s why.
If the average gamer age demographic has risen to 35-year-old males, then odds are these gamers are also the heads of their households. That is not intended to be a sexist statement in any way; I am just going by what is deemed a “traditional” American family (Mom, Dad, 2.5 children). Now these same heads of households (who could also be the only source of income) when holidays come around probably have other things to worry about besides buying games. Yet all the game companies are compelled to bring out all of the big guns around this time.
In September of this year alone there’s (take a deep breath): Guitar Hero 5, Dirt 2, Wet, Beatles Rock Band, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, Scribblenauts, Need For Speed: Shift, Halo: ODST, Dead Space Extraction, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and Kingdom Hearts DS all in the matter of 30 days. If you thought that was crazy you should see October and November. I know that there are only 52 weeks in a year and titles are bound to over lap one another, but piling them up together this way, especially at this time of the year it is a bit ridiculous. Not only are they putting strain on your wallet but strain on your free time as well. If you took the time in completing all of the games on the list you probably wouldn’t be moving on to October’s releases until 2010.
A major factor that plays into this, is the actual prices of these titles. At 65 bucks a pop, picking up 3 games in a week will cost just as much as an XBOX 360 arcade system. If prices stay where they are (and I’m sure they will) I think the industry will soon realize the hard way, that most people who want to play all of these AAA titles just simply don’t have the money to buy 20+ games in 10 weeks time. For all you playing at home that’s a whopping $1,300 worth of games, try explaining that one to your wife or family. I know that in the end it’s all about the consumer’s choice to buy 1 or 2 or 3 games, but for the publishers and developers that’s essentially playing roulette with their intellectual property.
In order to move forward and adapt to the changing times as this industry has done over and over, there should be a shift in the games release strategy. Spreading the games out throughout the calendar year is what has to happen. This notion that games wont sell from January to August is wrong. If they are promoted the right way, it can be like Christmas in July. I can give 2 examples of AAA titles released in “slow” winter and spring months. GTA IV (due to a delay, it would have launched in October) and before that the God Of War series, neither of those had problems moving units at the time of their release. Sure, they were hyped up to astronomical levels but that hype served as promotion for the game. If game companies would advertise and promote more during the College Football BCS games, The Super Bowl, March Madness/Final Four, NBA Finals, NFL Draft (games other than Madden) and baseball’s All-Star Break, trust me the summer would play out just like the Fall.
I’m sure this fall the video games industry will do just fine as they shower us with games this year as usual. As much as I’m sure I will be broke by January because of it. I really think that the publishers who sell these games and the people who buy would be much better off it releases were spread out more throughout the year. I just hope for the industry’s sake that they don’t have to find out the hard way.