They don’t call it “Black Friday” for nothing. The holiday shopping season is an important point during any year for a business’s ledgers. However, let’s face it, the holiday release window for video games, though important, ultimately draws attention to the heavyweights: Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, [insert big name franchise here]. Games coming from smaller developers, publishing houses, or both don’t get half the shine that the aforementioned titles do. What this has me asking, then, is why more smaller developers aren’t flocking to the summer months to release their games.
Beyond Good and Evil, Metal Arms: Glitch In the System, and last year’s Rayman Origins are perfect examples of this. BG&E, upon it’s release, was up against Jak II and Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando; MA came out only a few weeks after Halo 2; and RO came out a damn week after Modern Warfare 3. Disregarding when the game was completed, what the hell were these developers or publishers thinking? What many seem to be missing, it seems, is the yearly gaming drought that is the summer months.
Recently, Rebellion’s Sniper Elite V2, what could be described as niche with its realistic sniper gameplay, recently landed in the number one spot on sale’s charts. It’s May 1 release kept it safely away from the gargantuan hits that are bound to come out in the holiday season, allowing it to flourish. The key to grabbing someone’s attention when you aren’t CoD, AC, or Halo is not having the loudest advertising campaign, it is waiting for the opportune moment to release it so that your product can breathe. Even better, by the time November rolls around, the price may drop, giving the thrifty buyer even more incentive to pick the game up while Christmas shopping.
Don’t tag me as naive, though. I am well aware of publishing pressure and that developers may want to get a game out the door after completing it, regardless of what other games are coming out at the time, so that they may start on something new. But if you’re putting it out when every video game blockbuster known to man is about to body slam store shelves, aren’t you just setting it up for failure?
BG&E and RO were fortunate enough to be bred from developers under big publishing houses, they are supposedly both getting sequels, despite poor sales. But what about Metal Arms? What about the countless other games that go ignored and end up being cult classics? Cult classic might sound like a good thing, but it isn’t. Cult classics are usually one-and-done affairs. In an age where there are far more sequels than original IP’s, some might find this to be a good thing. But I am sure there are still plenty of people out there that could have used another romp with Jade a few years earlier and just one more adventure with Glitch.
I know, there is a reason developers don’t release their games in the summer. Sales on video games go way down. Buy hey, it’s better to take a chance on a spacious release window than to throw your game to the lions by releasing it in Q4. Not only would it give these games a better chance, it would also give us gamers one more good reason to stay inside during those hot summer months.