Late last year—during the holiday season—the game industry had faced a number of releases previously never seen before; there was something for everyone! There were first person shooters, role-playing, adventure, platformer, fighting, and more. The sheer diversity and magnitude of this momentous feat of digital splendor were one that us feeble humans could only hope to dream of. And yet, there it was, in all its glory for us to enjoy; a proverbial Eden for us gamers to fawn over. But, with so many games to choose from, there was bound to be winners and losers. Some would win the favor of the crowds while others would shrink into the recess of the shadows, only to be deeply discounted and largely forgotten.
One would think that this lesson would be learned. That there would not be another repeat of events, where a large array of games would release at the same time, only cannibalizing each other’s sales except for a select few. Here we are again however, with not this upcoming holiday-season being the time to worry about, but of all things, March.
March, typically, is not a month associated with a large number of game releases. In fact, when the Nintendo Switch was announced, many were surprised and worried about the console’s viability by not releasing during holiday-season. Luckily the Nintendo Switch did phenomenally, but that hasn’t changed how many think of March being a slower month. What adds more wood to the fire during this particular March is that in addition to being more releases than a typical year, there is also a fair amount of titles that are being released by big-name studios such as EA, Nintendo, Rare, and Ubisoft.
Here is a short list of some of the upcoming titles releasing in March:
- A Way Out
- Assassin’s Creed Rogue Remaster
- Attack on Titan 2
- Detective Pikachu
- Devil May Cry HD Collection
- Far Cry 5
- Final Fantasy 15: Royal Edition
- Kirby Star Allies
- MLB The Show 18
- Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
- Sea of Thieves
- The Alliance Alive
- Titan Quest
Far Cry 5, Kirby Star Allies, Ni no Kuni II, and Sea of Thieves are all titles that many will be looking forward to and all titles that will for examples, be fighting against each other. Consider for a moment that most consumers do not have the time nor wish to spend on multiple full price games at once. When it comes time to choose which title is the one to take home, only one or two (in a best-case scenario) will be chosen.
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.
For example, let’s assume that when March finally arrives, that Far Cry 5 and Sea of Thieves are initially the most popular games of that time period. Because of this popularity, news sites will pick up on this trend and use its opportunity to reach more viewers and relate to potentially more of their potential readers as it is pertaining to a popular subject. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, Far Cry 5 and Sea of Thieves have the most interest, thus is talked about the most, which in turn makes the more sales, snowballing into being the dominant game of that time period. It creates a situation where other games simply can’t compete; they already lost without having a chance. By the time the other games would have a chance, the next latest and greatest game is out and is dominating the news cycle.
It’s an unfortunate situation that has been created, where there are simply so many games coming out that it’s impossible for all of them to have their moment in the sun. A situation that has been largely been made worse by a new trend with publishers having a very short time frame from announcement to release. In the past, companies, such as Square Enix (and its former self Square Soft and Enix) would announce games well into the future, sometimes being multiple years.
Occasionally, these announcements are still made when it’s important to convey that certain studios are working on something big and important and publishers wish to highlight this. Outside of these situations, games have generally been announcing games no more than six months out. This leaves publishers and developers playing a guessing game on when the competition will opt to release their latest titles. Game companies have also gained a stigma for pushing back and delaying their games, regardless of their (sometimes absurd) reasoning, and will want to avoid any negative feedback they may foster by doing so. When combining all these scenarios together, companies are left unable to plan effectively for the future and we gamers are left with many games being ignored.
If there is any solution to this problem, it’s to have publishers and developers start announcing their long release windows once again. It is a must or we will continually see, month after month, release after release, a large majority of titles be ignored each and every times.
Here is to hoping that developers and publishers can learn from this and prevent them from hurting themselves and the fans in the future.