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June 26, 2008

Monkey see, monkey do.

So it's a tradition of publishers and developers, worldwide, to begin releasing 80% of their games in the late Fall/early Winter season. It's some kind of "lets release for the holidays! it's bound to sell some!" craze that has gripped them for years. You'd think that they would have learned by now that doing this is a practice bound to kill your company off, if you're lucky.

The chances of your game being rated favorably (70-average, on most "school-style" scales being used by many reviewers) at 85 or higher is very low. The chances of your title being a triple-A hit, or at least a 93 or so (A-range) are even lower. Many titles that release in this pre-holiday window ARE potentially qualified for triple-A* status, this year's examples being Fallout 3, Fable 2, Guitar Hero: World Tour, Tom Clancy's EndWar, Prince of Persia... etc.

That's a (possible) 5 or 6 games, given that not all of these can reach the top, and some unexpected ones might.

How many games ARE releasing in this window? I'd guess (for all platforms) it's between 40-50. A good half of these are going to be shuttleware crap, especially for the Nintendo Wii. Random shooters, such as Legendary, Fracture, the newly announced Damnation (which inspired this article) are pretty much doomed to the bargain bin. Potentially adopted by some (memories of myself and TimeShift come to mind), but generally overlooked and possibly under-appreciated. Why? Because these people choose to get their games out for the holiday season instead of pumping up the market during the classic lulls (early spring, mid-summer) and getting much more publicity and a larger possible adoption rate than they would ever achieve in the months of falling leaves.

Games I could see easily slipping through the cracks this year are some that definitely don't deserve to be overlooked: Far Cry 2, Sacred 2: Falling Angel, Tom Clancy's HAWX (probably going to be delayed, as are the previously listed titles), Dead Space, and I'm making lists again.

My point is- congratulations, you've made a game. The best game? Probably not. Quirky, appealing, not too hyped? Almost definitely. Is it going to sell in the holiday season? Not unless some ironic miracle takes place. Developers and Publishers need to start realizing that the games they push are not going to always be amazing, always be new and loved. It's suicide to push them in between titles from huge studios with media resources behind it that cost more than the studios that make the smaller games. All gamers know and dread the summer drought, that famous time when people scoop up games they'd traded away months ago just for something to play.

Look at things like Gears of War: Refresh. In a time when people have mostly ditched Gears, gotten bored with other things, and are looking for something new, we have a perfect repackage. Battlefield: Bad Company- a mediocre game on all counts, with a mediocre frame-rate, lackluster environmental destruction and seriously flawed design choices in multiplayer that cripple an otherwise pretty fun game. The game has gotten way more publicity than it might have in the fall (although it has EA behind it). People are a little slow to buy it right now, but it's a viable summer entry, and it's guaranteed to have a strong playerbase for at least a few months.

People need to start getting smarter about their release dates, and start realizing the truth- they aren't developing a cure for cancer, their game probably won't sell nearly as well as they want it to, and Fall will burn them alive. Space out your releases, and benefit yourself as well as the gamers who now get something to play in a normally dry (no pun intended) season.

*Games listed as potentially triple-A are based purely on personal speculation and general media perception.


Devin said...

A-Freaking-Men. There are way to many games coming out this Fall. It blows cause Theirs no way I'm gonna afford them all.

DW said...

Jayge,Reload and Pirate, Can you all toss me an Email at

Need to talk shop with you ;)