Every. Single. Year. I have to write a similar article going over how game publishers need to space out their releases when it comes to the holiday season because the same thing keeps happening year after year. Come October, an avalanche of releases begin to pour into the market consistently until January finally graces our calendars. These are not small, indie releases, but rather big, AAA developers and publishers attempting to fight for the consumer’s attention and to come out on top. And just like how this fight to win has continued with the same level of guarantee that Christmas music starts to play on the radio after Thanksgiving, so has the expected amount of losers as well. There simply isn’t enough room in the market for all these big titles to compete, leaving many bound to fail due to poor timing.
They are not bad games, in fact, many times they are of decent or high quality. It is the same thing that happens at E3 for game announcements, with the only flaw that separated the winners from the losers, was time. Having a certain game announcement at the wrong time could take a title that would normally work its way through the news cycle at least once or twice, to being completely forgotten or lost in a list that compiles everything that happened at E3; game releases are no different. When so many quality games are all vying for attention, some are bound to lose, with more who end up losing than winning.
However, this year’s E3 was different, for the first time developers and publishers realized that they could take advantage of a time that was long overlooked, the month leading up to E3. Here was a glorious slice of the gregorian calendar, known as June, that was long regarded as a time of silence when it came to video game news. Announcing a game or new featuring during this time was simply unheard of, until E3 2019. Suddenly, multiple developers and publishers realized that this prime piece of time surrounding summer solstice would provide an advantage of a quiet news cycle, and thus, any announcements would be picked up for coverage at various different outlets.
Now, it appears that the marketing teams at these big companies have decided to pass on the knowledge of their newfound success at E3 and apply it to release dates. This has resulted in the 2019 holiday season looking to be one of the lightest in a long time with only a few AAA titles releasing in October, November, an December. However, what has happened in its place is that instead of releasing games during the holiday season, they have all piled up in August and September. In their attempt to get ahead of the curve, these companies have recreated the same problem, just at a different time during the year. The amount of quality games releasing in this timeframe is staggering, and just like how in past years companies and consumers both suffered when too many games released in a short time frame, this likely will happen once again.
From the companies perspective, the loss is derived from consumers having limited time and money. To quote from a previous article of mine on this subject:
The results of this [too many games releasing in a short time-span] create[s] 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.
Consumers cannot keep up with the pace and amount of games that companies are releasing for there to be any hope of missed titles being picked up with a similar interest from when they launched. Once that time has passed, it is nearly impossible to recreate the same moment as launch. It is for this same reason that consumers lose out too.
When there are so much choice and options, with such limited time and spending power, it creates artificial winners or losers. By this, I mean that those who come out on top or on the bottom of the competition were put there less by their quality, but more by a sudden spike in popularity. The games that lost didn’t necessarily lose because they were of a lower quality, it’s just that something more popular took over the news cycle and buried the titles that lost. If those games released at another time, they likely would have performed far better if all other things were equal. Regardless of the reason, this information is conveyed loud and clear to the company through lack of sales, and its highly likely that the company who produced the game will be reconsidering not only creating similar titles, but continuing the franchise. For a consumer, this can be devastating, a good game that you enjoy has performed poorly due to a poor release window, and the future of the franchise is in jeopardy. It’s unfortunate, but it’s likely the takeaway the company will make after seeing the games poor performance in sales.
What’s even more unfortunate, is that most of this situation could be avoided. Personally, I would love to pick up both Astral Chain and Deamon X Machina come this August and September, but I can’t justify purchasing both at full price, and at launch. I know I won’t have time for both due to other obligations, but also since I am planning to get Gears 5 at launch as well—not to mention there is a slew of other titles I want to pick up. It is just not practical for me, or most other gamers, to pick up so many quality titles in a short amount of time; some are bound to suffer when there are so many quality choices.
Until developers and publishers figure out how to better space out their releases, we consumers will keep sending the signal that we don’t want these games because we can’t justify purchasing them so close together. Meaning franchises that we all would love to see continue or get a potential start may never see that chance, all because someone decided to have them release all so close together.