I Stand On My Soapbox is a series of editorials that cover more specific topics in the games industry and community. These articles are a little more extreme than normal editorials published here, and could just degenerate to outright ranting. Have fun and enjoy the show!
Why is this? Why the hell does this always happen? Why do game companies decide to keep all of their big releases for the holiday season? Hm? Why are all of these games pushed back to a very crowded time of the year for videogames, where it’s harder for most games to get noticed? Time and again I’ve seen companies release their game on November and December, get back their results, see their games flop, and wonder to hell and back why their games failed to sell. And yet, here we are in the middle of Summer just sitting back and twiddling out fingers wondering what game is coming out this Summer. Well guess what? There’s barely any, and it boggles my mind! You’d think Summer would be a perfect time to release these games. And yet, not a lot of companies see this. Well, I’m going to show why Summer is the best time to release videogames.
Let me start with demographics here. Now with games geared toward kids and teens, it’s understandable that those games come out in the holiday season. I mean their main/only source of income is their parents, so of course they’re gonna get these games courtesy of their parents. However, there’s another factor at play here with the younger demographic and I’ll get to it in a bit. But in the grander scheme of things, the big demographic that many companies aim for nowadays is the 18-32-year-old range. Around this time, people have the income to get whatever they want. They don’t need mom or pop to get games for them, and they certainly don’t need to wait for the holiday season to buy them.
The other thing I want to get at here is that most people go on a Summer Break from school and, if allowed, at work. One thing you see most gamers in the 18-32 age range complain about is that they come home and are so exhausted from work/school that they they don’t have time to play anything — or don’t even feel like playing anything for that matter from said exhaustion. To make matters worse, they might buy a game, play it for a bit, and then stop because they got busy again at work/school. Now you might think “oh, it’ll be part of a backlog of games they’ll finish in Summer.” And they might. But what happens to games that are more demanding on time, like RPGs. Most of the time they’ll either forget the game, forget the story, forget what to do, and just dread playing the game over. They’ll probably just not try the game again and leave it as is. This could be alleviated with a Summer release where they’ll get the game fresh and new, play it without interruption, and see it through to completion. This’ll probably apply mostly to college students since they’re more likely to get Summer breaks than those with jobs.
Now lets jump back to the younger demographic. Now I mentioned earlier that kids’ and teens’ main source of income is their parents. So they’ll be getting their games for them. That’s not all. They’ll also get allowances. Now how does this playing into Summer? Think about this: Parents get these games around the holiday season, and come December 25th, the kids get the game and get to enjoy it. So from December 25th (Christmas) to January 1st (New Years Day), they have that amount of time to play the game(s) they just got. That’s roughly a week. For most games today, that’s more than enough to beat a game. But for more time consuming games like, again RPGs, it’s not enough. Most of my JRPG sessions back in 2002-2006 I had stopped because I got caught up in highschool work. Hell, even into my college years I didn’t have any time to play any JRPGs. But I digress. Kids will be back in school and struggle to balance game playing and schoolwork. You’ll see unhappy parents and teachers complaining that the kids plays too many games, and you’ll see the kid complain about having too much damn homework. It’ll be a mess.
Oh but look, the kid’s got a summer break that lasts from late June to early September. And guess what, he/she might’ve been saving up his allowance money to get a game, one that he/she’s been anticipating. But guess what? It ain’t coming out ’til the holiday season. His/Her ass is gonna have to wait. To me this never made sense. Here you have an entire season where kids and adults mostly have free and not occupied with the monotony of life. They’re ready to escape into fantastical worlds, eerie cyperpunk streets, warzones, and not one company thinks “Now’s my chance! BUY MY GAME GUYS!” You know who had this mentality to get their big games out in Summer? Squaresoft.
Back during the PS1 days, Squaresoft would wait until Summer to launch some of their big games. Dubbed by them, “The Summer of Adventure,” They would release games like Legend of Mana, Chrono Cross, Threads of Fate, Final Fantasy VIII, and Parasite Eve during this time (with the latter two being September release, still considered Summer Season in entertainment terms). These guys had the right idea and sales for these games were great. Not spectacular, but it made some good headway for a couple their of the new IPs. This Summer, Square Enix is releasing Kingdom Hearts 3D, and XSEED is bringing out The Last Story. Unfortunately, outside of Super Mario Bros. 2, these are the only high-profile releases for the Summer.
One the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Sega. Platinum Games has Anarchy Reigns ready for release, and Sega pegged it for an early Summer release. And then… they delay it…into 2013! They delayed it so that they “could find a better time to release it.” WHAT!? Summer’s a perfect time to release it! I mean, you have a game that is a sequel to the very obscure MadWorld, a brawler reminiscent of Power Stone, and online functionality across all territories. Given the IP and the genre of game it is, you think it stands a chance being successful this holiday season, or even the post-holiday season when most of the hold-over AAA’s get released because they were too scared to compete with CoD? Hell no! And Summer is a virtual ghost-town with nary a game in sight and gamers looking to get gaming. Get wit’ it Sega. Summer is the best time to release Anarchy Reigns and you blew it. If Anarchy Reigns fails to sell, you have only yourself to blame Sega for not seeing an opportunity as open as this.
And you know what I’m seeing? Indie Games have been taking over the Summer scene. Not to belittle or chastise indie games for being successful, they deserve all the glory they get. But one of these days you’re going to see one of these indies sell like gangbusters and make indie developers lots of money (or maybe it’s already happened). Heck, the revenue will probably rival, or even top that of big hitters like CoD or Assassin’s Creed. And you’ll see these companies and their analyst scratch their ass and sniff their heads wondering “Why did we fail to outsell them? We have a AAA game and it’s the Holidays.” Because Indies saw an opening in Summer, away from the Holidays, and took it. Indies will probably have a more lucrative time during the Summer, moreso than the AAA Holiday season. Big Companies will try to go for summer releases after this, but it’ll already be too late. So it’s best to do it now before it’s too late.