The end-of-year release schedule, and how it messes up the games industry

The games-release calendar generally stinks. Most of the year’s game releases are crammed up from September through November. Games will get pushed out the door, ready or not, just to get them on the shelves by Black Friday or Cyber Monday, with a short-tail of releases winding down through December for those titles that just weren’t ready enough or couldn’t get fabrication time.

The idea, of course, is to make huge quantities of revenue. In practice, though, what’s happening is that the games industry is shorting its own revenues, killing game franchises, and often putting studios out of business.

First and foremost, the problem is one of competition for the customer’s dollar. You don’t have any extra money in Q4 each year. You don’t, I don’t, very few people do. Those of us who get a Christmas Bonus (an almost outmoded tradition) get them late enough in the year that this particular shopping orgy period is over before it comes in.

Not only is The Secret Origin of Generic Costumed Hero going to be battling with turkeys (that’s the feathered kind, not the sort that you find on game-store shelves), festive ornaments, seasonal clothing, Halloween costumes for the kids and grandkids, and all the usual financial hubbub at that time of year, but also with – not a dozen, but a hundred or more other games (some of which may be considered turkeys, I suppose, yes).

Not many people can even afford all the A-titles that the season has to offer, let alone the B-titles – though due to seasonal cash-competition, many of us will be buying fewer titles than we otherwise might, or settling for cheaper B-titles anyway.

Very, very few people actually save their money earlier in the year just so they can buy more games at the end of it.

Titles just don’t sell as well, revenues aren’t as high as they could be because of the stiff competition, and there’s certainly no sign that quality is improved any. If you’re selling crap in a box, though, it’s a great time to get Z-titles moving. Aunt Tilley will usually grab something off the shelf for the nieces and nephews, usually without any real consumer guidance.

Conversely, much of the rest of the year consists of a bit of a drought for games. Releases are just a trickle, much of it revolving around movie-licensed properties synchronized with cinema release schedules.

Some few publishers are starting to get the hint to spread their releases out, but the fact remains that reduced revenues due to the year-end competition will sink a lot of titles, franchises and studios. Ones that could have done really very well at other times of the year.

It takes an uncommon kind of patience, but if you actually manage to hold onto your cash through this whole period, and only bring it with you to the game store in mid-to-late January, you can generally buy twice or three times the number of games in the late-January sales, than you would otherwise be able to between September and the end of the year.

You’ll want a bunch of games to get you through January to August anyway, because unless games publishers start making some unaccustomed kind of sense suddenly, there’s not exactly going to be a steady stream of releases at the times of the year when you actually likely have the most cash to spend.

2 thoughts on “The end-of-year release schedule, and how it messes up the games industry”

  1. “You don’t have any extra money in Q4 each year. You don’t, I don’t, very few people do.”

    I do. It used to be called a Christmas Club Account in the States. Now you roll your own with a savings account and automatic transfers.

Comments are closed.