Good games are like buses; you wait an age for one, then several arrive at once. Throughout the middle of 2010, I along with countless other gamers, suffered through a drought of decent titles. Between the release of the excellent Mass Effect 2, early in the year, and the recent release of the much anticipated Fallout New Vegas, only Red Dead Redemption stood out as a particularly spectacular game in mid-2010.
No sooner had Obsidian returned us to the world of wastelands, vaults and super-mutants, than we see the release of other big hitters; Star Wars The Force Unleashed 2, Fifa 11, Medal of Honor, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, and what is expected to become the biggest selling game of all time: Call of Duty Black Ops, to name but a few. I left out Halo Reach from that ensemble for personal reasons, but if that floats your boat it could add weight to my argument.
With such a large selection of potentially excellent titles arriving within just a few short weeks of one another, I feel like the gaming equivalent of an emaciated captive presented with a banquet; I want them all but can’t have them all at once. The games industry seems to do this quite deliberately and it’s relatively obvious that the release timing is geared to exploit the lucrative Christmas market.
This appears to be a sound business model, being as how a vast majority of games are purchased in the run up to the holiday season; but is this market mindset counter-productive? Development schedules aside, certain titles can easily lay claim to the holiday market. Over the past 4 years the king of Christmas gaming has consistently been the Call of Duty series. So then, are other great titles that simply selling themselves short by trying to go in direct competition with such a massive title? Would there be more sense in releasing some bigger games 6 months apart from the biggest of the holiday titles, to boost sales and, most importantly, fill the gap of good games during the summer?
Only the developers, or perhaps marketing experts, can answer this, but it should be noted as a combat indicator that Game, the UK’s biggest games retailer - one that is supposed to be recession proof - has seen it’s shares plummet over the past year. Last year their share value sat at £1.60, however today it is hovering around 70p. The retailer actually blamed the lack of big title releases in the first half of the year for the slump, and expects to recover over the Christmas period. That said if this is to be the trend, then Game and other video game retailers could well see their share prices in a constant yo-yo. Meanwhile, gamers will continue to wait many months for another flood of great games.