It is only April and we have already learned of the many games that will be coming out in the upcoming holiday-season, even at this extremely early stage in the year. In the past few years, the competition surrounding games being released during certain parts of the year has grown exponentially. What was once a time for a handful of expected AAA releases has turned into a buffet of digital delights all fighting for consumer’s attention.
Now in 2018, the problem still exists, and it’s happening more and more frequently. Before, it was only relegated to the holiday season, but just this past March had also seen a number of releases never seen, and now the latest in this series of game publisher’s poor planning, September has become the newest victim.

September has traditionally been a bit of an odd month when it comes to game releases. It finds itself between the end of the summer months, where AAA game releases are few and far between, and the start of the holiday season where all the AAA games bide for attention. This results in September being a bit of a hybrid, having one or two big budget AAA games releasing but most releases during the time frame being smaller or more niche titles. For example, let’s take a look at September 2017’s release schedule:

  • Knack II
  • Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth
  • Destiny 2
  • Pro Evolution Soccer 2018
  • Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
  • Divinity: Original Sin 2
  • NBA 2K18
  • Dishonored: Death of the Outsider
  • Metroid: Samus Returns
  • Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite
  • Project Cars 2
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
  • Total War: Warhammer II
  • Cuphead
  • FIFA 18

Out of all the titles listed (not all titles released are listed, a full list can be found here), the same spread that was mentioned earlier exists; a few AAA titles, with mostly smaller and niche games filling out the rest of September’s lineup. September 2016 paints a similar story, with some of the biggest releases being Forza Horizon 3 and Destiny: Rise of Iron with the rest of the titles being smaller or more expansions to AAA games. 2018, on the other hand, looks a lot different, and even without knowing the full lineup of games that will be releasing this September, the amount of AAA titles coming out at this time is worrisome.

Currently (4/10/2018), September 2018’s lineup is the following:

  • Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
  • SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy
  • Spider-Man
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider
  • Spyro Reignited Trilogy

Keep in mind this is not a complete list, but it is a strong lineup already. Dragon Quest XI is a title that has already released in Japan, but has seen so much interest and demand in the west that is being ported over. Spider-Man is being developed by Insomniac Studios, the creators of Ratchet and Clank and looks to be the Spider-Man game that fans have been waiting for. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the conclusion to the rebooted Tomb Raider series, one that many are looking forward to. Finally, Spyro Reignited Trilogy, one of, if not the fan favorite of the original PlayStation, is getting a remake to all three of the original games.

Just to reiterate, it is only April and we already have four major AAA titles that will be fighting for consumers’ attention when in the past there may have been at most two AAA titles. What was once a holiday-season problem has now spilled over into September, and again, developers and publishers are going to suffer from the overwhelming amount of releases.

From our Game Publisher’s Still Haven’t Learned to Space Out Their Releases article:

The results of this create a scenario where multiple big-budget games end up competing for the limited amount of wallets that are out there. Some will choose game A, others will choose game B, and another group will choose game C. If this scenario existed in a bubble, eventually consumers would move on to another game that was released in the same time frame. Unfortunately, in the real world, new games continually come out fighting for attention and the consumers’ time and (most importantly) money. This never-ending stream of new games and the limited purchases most consumers will make creates a scenario where only one or two games will become dominant in a cycle while the others simply fall by the wayside.

This upcoming September does have one unique feature that differentiates itself from all these other scenarios that show that at least this time developers are listening with the upcoming release of Red Dead Redemption 2. Publishers are so fearful of this title that they have opted to move their releases before it, knowing that it will cannibalize their sales. Unfortunately, by doing so, they are simply creating the same scenario that happens time and time again during the holiday season; too many games with not enough people. Publishers continually believe that the best time to release a game is only during the holiday season, but the Nintendo Switch alone should be enough evidence that this is not the case. The time of year isn’t the most important factor, it’s the other games that are releasing at the same time that matter most. In the AAA realm, if a game is releasing with little competition, it will have a chance to succeed. But if its releasing right next to several other quality AAA titles, unless it is the absolute best, it will be a gamble for the publisher to determine if the product will be the winner of that time frame.

Worst of all, it doesn’t need to be this way. Publishers have other options; they have all of Spring and Summer that are all perfectly good times to release a game with far less competition. A game can stand on its own during these times, but once again publishers are forcing games to be in the most competition of each other, and now September looks to be another battlefield in the fruitless effort of publishers trying to release games all at the same time with most losing in the process.