News Article

Talking Point: The Overcrowded Holiday Release Schedule

Posted by Mark Reece

Time for a congestion charge?

There’s a popular analogy that likens the act of waiting for buses to other everyday occurrences in life: around this time every year we’re all inevitably subjected to the same situation as we were last year, and the year before that, and so on. Picture the scene: you’ve endured summer months of crippling boredom, either prodding half-heartedly at the games you think you really ought to finish or scouring your local games emporium for the faintest whiff of anything even remotely decent to play.

Meanwhile the nights slowly draw in, a chill creeps ever closer and supermarkets begins to surreptitiously sneak advent calendars onto their shelves. As if by magic, you find yourself bombarded with more games than you could possibly know what to do with. Unless you’re in the lucky position of being a self-made millionaire it’s highly unlikely that you possess either the time or the money to feasibly be able to play everything that catches your eye, and the irony cruelly hits you like a ton of bricks.

The tail end of the year — most notably November, although October and December are usually no slouches either — has always presented gamers with an over-abundance of games to play. 2011 is no different, with almost every major publisher battling it out during the same eight to ten-week period as they release their biggest hits in the hope that they’ll reap the rewards of the lucrative Christmas market. In fact not long ago, on the 18th of November, ten different high-profile games were released across all formats. In Europe alone, Wii and 3DS owners alone were able to pick up two highly anticipated first-party blockbuster titles, Super Mario 3D Land and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword — two must-play games, we think you’ll agree — along with Warner Bros.’ Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 and EA’s Need For Speed: The Run. Now, if you wanted to pick up each title in the UK at retail, you’d be looking at throwing down around £155 on the counter. And that’s if you were only to buy one version of each game. Should you decide that you want the Wii and 3DS versions of Need For Speed and Lego Harry Potter — because you just couldn’t live without street racing and magic building blocks while commuting to work or sitting on the toilet — then you can expect to add around an extra £70 to that. That’s £255 on just one day’s worth of releases.

A mere week after the above deluge of software, Kirby’s Adventure Wii, Tales of the Abyss, Sonic Generations and Rayman Origins all dropped on the same day, with Super Pokémon Rumble and Mario Kart 7 following — again — a mere week after those titles. With Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Cave Story 3D (in Europe) and numerous other games also peppered throughout the space of two months, it’s an incredibly expensive time to be a gamer, even if you just limit yourself to playing games on Nintendo’s consoles.

Unless you’re in the lucky position of being a self-made millionaire it’s highly unlikely that you possess either the time or the money to feasibly be able to play everything that catches your eye.

But what are the reasons behind this everything or nothing approach to releasing games? Well, Christmas factors into this to some degree, as the public generally spend the most around the festive season, buying gifts or treating themselves: but why exactly do publishers deem it necessary to keep us waiting for most of the year — giving us something worthwhile every now and then, if we’re lucky — only to crush us underneath a mountain of games in the last three months? It’s not like nobody buys games for the rest of the year, surely?

Perhaps this Christmas congestion is a throwback of a bygone era when gaming wasn’t as socially accepted a pastime as it is today. A time when it was widely assumed that gaming was mostly the hobby of children, so a great deal more titles were possibly released closer to Christmas because all those kids with their Nintendo and Sega consoles were relying on their parents to purchase these games as Christmas presents.

Nowadays, of course, the user base for games is almost unrecognisably different and the average age has leaped upwards, potentially, by around twenty years. Yet publishers still group a significant number of their releases at the tail end of the year, and truth be told many may be finding it tiresome. Choice is great, but not if it’s at the expense of being bored for nine months of the year. As long as publishers release games, gamers will buy them regardless of what month of the year it is.

In fact, wouldn’t it be so much better if releases were staggered more evenly throughout the year? Not only would it give us more of a chance to experience everything we were interested in playing, but it would put less of a strain on our wallets as well. If the plethora of games we mentioned a few paragraphs ago were spread out across 12 months as opposed to three weeks, we wouldn’t have to pick and choose what we bought because we’d have both the time and the money to purchase and play these titles as they came out.

Of course gamers can pick up titles gradually over time, but spreading the schedule would also be beneficial to the publishers. How many games did you buy on 18th November? One? Two? You almost certainly didn’t buy ten, which must mean that the sales figures of some of those games will have been affected by the close proximity of so many competing titles. Nintendo gamers, for example, wouldn’t be torn between Super Mario 3D Land or Skyward Sword at the same time: they’d be able to pick them both up as fresh, exciting day-one purchases. Another benefit for publishers would be that gamers would potentially buy more games throughout the year, aided by greater media exposure, meaning a far greater likelihood of them buying these titles at their full retail price, as opposed to picking them up at a discount — or worse still for the publisher, second-hand — further down the line.

What do you think? Is the current scheduling ill-advised and damaging for publishers, or do you enjoy the enormous influx of games over the Holiday period? Let us know in the comments below.

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User Comments (48)



ThomasBW84 said:

I think publishers need to have a re-think. From a Nintendo perspective it's been crowded (quite a few titles are on my list for next year), and it's been equally insane - maybe more so - on the HD consoles. Surely the overload of games is damaging launch sales figures?

I think the industry is shooting itself in the foot with this, and some gaming consumers may have a short memory, consigning the likes of Rayman Origins to a 'cult' status with below par sales, which would be a real shame.



Bloodysaber said:

@Thomas I agree that this is a trend that is likely causing more harm than good; as much as everyone may want to push their title around the holiday to boost initial sales, such a cascade of titles often leaves me with a pile of games in my backlog to pick up (Often used) in the spring and summer months. Only this year have I had the funds to pick up all the games that have caught my eye (Well, most of them) but I still don't have time to play them all.

Dark Souls, Gears of War 3, Skyward Sword, Super Mario Land 3D, Skyrim, Assassin's Creed, and Mario Kart 7. (I even have some other, previous unfinished titles to complete such as the first Dead Space, DEHR, and Fallout: NV. I'm actually rather glad I decided I'm bored with the FPS rehashes this year and can safely skip MW3 and BF3)

I don't think I'll be in the market for games for a while...



ueI said:

Glad you mentioned Rayman Origins in this article. I'll definitely be waiting a few months to get it. Summer months in general are when I pick up games I originally didn't want; there are so few must haves around then!



irken004 said:

The Wii has an overcrowded holiday release schedule? Nope, not in my eyes. When you throw in the tons of PS3 and 360 games being released though, yes.

The only 2 Wii games I want this holiday are Rayman Origins and DKCR



Dodger said:

Having nothing for 3DS or Wii all summer and now all of this is insane. I'm lucky if I get one game for Christmas. I normally have to buy my own games. Thankfully, I have Skyward Sword.



Shiryu said:

I'm glad I got Rayman. And every other game I wanted. Work hard, play harder! It would be impossible if I also had a PS3 or 360. Just Wii/3DS for long foreseeable future.



C7_ said:

It's true, especially if you factor in being a PC gamer and other HD consoles. There have been WAAAAAY too many good games out in the past couple months (something I never thought I would say), what with Skyrim, the new Zelda, battlefield 3 and CoD (I don't like them but they're certainly up there for many), 2 Mario Games, Rayman, Saints Row, and many others, developers are probably regretting releasing around now.

Usually I have a plan of attack for what games I should buy or wait for the holidays, but I don't have the cash or enough relatives to get all these games, nor the free time to play them.



SLiM said:

I agree that there are a lot of good games out this holiday season. The obvious solution is to create more Christmas-like holidays!



Glade said:

Nice That's why I decided to get the games I really wanted! Like Ace Combat 3D, MW3 and the ever growing titles for my new PSP!



NintyMan said:

I find it odd how Nintendo or any other video gaming company for that matter doesn't consider releasing high-profile games in summer. Think about it, kids are stuck home out of school and have two months to play video games compared to three weeks in winter. I guess they partly assume that they would be snowed in and have nothing else to do but play video games. They could go out for a swim or do other outside activities in the summertime.

I have most of the games I want this year. I have an eye on Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games and Fortune Street for this Christmas along with one big title in Skyward Sword, but I wouldn't be looking at those first two if I still didn't have Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7. Pre-ordering games is a blessing.

Spring looks like another busy season with Kid Icarus: Uprising, Paper Mario 3D, Luigi's Mansion 2, Mario Party 9, and Xenoblade for North America. But as far as Christmas, it's crammed unless you're frugal or running low on cash. I'm not a millionaire, but my family could live with some games being bought. I just wouldn't blow it. It's not like you absolutely have to buy the games you want all in one season.



she_gamer said:

It is over-crowded. I know I would have picked up Cave Story for sure if it had come out in August (or was it June...), but it's fallen to the back of the line, along with Rayman and Kirby. Especially since the money I will be spending is on gifts for other people.



theblackdragon said:

@NintyFan: surely the xmas season outranks summer in terms of sales, and with high-profile games come purchases of consoles to go with them. that's probably why it is the way it is :3



blackknight77 said:

As a fan of the survival horror genre Winter and Spring of 2012 will be very good with new games for the Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Because of this I am only getting Skyward Sword this year and nothing else. Right now I have a stack of unplayed games, and some that I borrow from friends.



MetalMario said:

Not to mention all the other systems, too. It's a shame that some good games get overshadowed by games like Call of Duty and Battlefield. While those games can be good, nobody goes to try new things or try different things like Rayman Origins, which is one of the best, if not the best, platformer available on 360/PS3.



timp29 said:

Definitely christmas plays a major role. While games aren't the sole province of kids any more, kids are still the people with probably the lion's share of spare time to devote to gaming. Also, kids tend to get more gifts at Christmas than adults. I think that the good games and movies coming out at Christmas is something we're going to have to live with. On the flip side, the competition should make the game developers put more into their Christmas releases.



armoredghor said:

A game targeted at the youth is ideally sold in the holiday season. For college students and citizens facing economic hardships, their games should be sold throughout the year to help sales. Ultimately, it seems that this is the current plan in place.



SteveW said:

Skylanders Spyro is still taking my money but I did have to get Zelda, the Mario's, and Jaws (Wii). It is a hard time to buy presents for others when so much stuff I want is coming out!



motang said:

Sadly because of over crowding game such as Rayman Origins get overlooked. You think publishers would wise up and spread out the wealth.



joevox316 said:

Hmm. All very good points. What I have never understood is why companies don't release more games in the Summer. What, they think folks don't have time to play them? Like they have more time around the holidays and in between school semesters? In the summer, young folk earn money. They would love to give you their money for your games that they have ample free time to play! (that's all I wanted over the summer--some new games for my shiny new systems!) When it's released around the holidays it's just going to collect dust while kids deal with homework and finals and adults deal with family and work. Bah. Humbug.



Radixxs said:

I was very bored over the summer and could've used a few fresh games. Although it is a bit crammed, I enjoy the sudden influx of games, it gets me excited again. I can't get them all, but I only own Nintendo consoles so it's a little less expensive. This article does present some great points though.

Also, in the third paragraph I believe it is supposed to be a total of £225, not £255.



CanisWolfred said:

It's the same probablen every year, unfortunately. Last year it looked like they were trying to avoid it, but this year they just threw em out all in the same two months.



FonistofCruxis said:

It would be nice if games were spread out a bit more but I wouldn't want them to be spread out much more as that would make it harder to get the mass of games out now that I need to get. TBH, I kind of like the Summer drought as its a good time to finish games I already own that need finishing or purchase longer games that are already out with it being more likely that I'll be able to finish them before the season is over.



Radixxs said:

@Mr_Reece: Ah, I was just adding the totals together, I forgot about Europe's pricing variation at different retailers.



Slapshot said:

I actually like how the old tradition of the holiday rush has stuck with Nintendo, but it's far from crowded these days compared to the HD systems. High profile titles are releasing every single month now on these systems. The entire market is completely stuffed with games, because of this happening over the last year: Killzone 3, Dead Space 2, Portal 2, Marvel vs Capcom 3, Rift, Crysis 2, Dragon Age 2, L.A. Noir, etc. - all landed on store shelves this past year.

I miss the old days where you were hyped up for months for a game's release, but now I can't even get hyped up too much, because I can't even play all the game's that I've already got!



SunnySnivy said:

I usually buy my "first priority" games when they first come out, around this time of year I miss a lot of other games. I didn't get Mario Kart 7, Rayman Origins, either of the Kirby games, Sonic Generations or Cave Story 3D because I had to buy the limited edition Skyward Sword bundle and Super Mario 3D Land, titles I wanted to play more. I will buy second priority games after the beginning of the year, when releases slow down.

This is what I think a lot of gamers do, and I'm sure it harms launch sales greatly.



Crunchy_in_milk said:

I think it's weird that game companies don't release anything in summer. Every year during summer I just replay old games and eventually get bored because there's nothing new.
And it's not just me, all my gaming friends, and a lot of people whose comments I've read online say the exact same thing.



Mr_Reece said:

Side-note: I love the picture that Thomas chose to accompany this article. Made me chuckle, that did.



kdognumba1 said:

Honestly, way too many games came out all at once. A lot of them are games that would make big sales or sell the same no matter when they came out. Also across all systems, some of these games would of sold a lot more IF they dropped in the summer aka the driest drought for games I can ever recall.



TikiTong said:

I agree. I was gonna get Rayman Origins but I already begged my mom to pre-order Star Fox 64 3D, and Ocarina of Time 3D, as well ask got her to buy Skyward Sword and Super Mario 3D land on release date. rayman will have to wait till' Santa comes for me!



crazyj2312 said:

It can be a difficult choice to pick a single game when there are several worth getting. It's not much of a problem for me, though, seeing as the games never really go anywhere and I can just buy them on a later date or online. I like the fact that there is a lot of variety in the market come this time of the year.



XCWarrior said:

Good topic, totally agree, just one thing. Way too long of an article. If you go past 500 words, cut it down. Internet land doesn't like to read a ton.

On the plus side to the gluttony of games, you see clearance of last year's games. I'm getting everything now at a discount. Besides a few exceptions - like Zelda - I can wait for a price drop and I can get way more games for the price of one brand new.



odd69 said:

I loved this article as well, Im so behind on new releases right now, cant afford to keep up. Every year is always the same in december for me, you nailed that part.



paburrows said:

This is the thing though, money speaks and since this sort of thing has been going on for years it tells us that whats been going on with the November dump IS successful. Its a little difficult, but I don't mind it since its a great time to load up on games for me and my kids for Christmas at great discounts with all of the buy 1 get the second 50% and buy 2 get one free, Black Friday, etc.



Fuzzy said:

Just means I'll get a lot of them cheaper once I have time next year.



Victoria said:

Not only is it a bad time now to have all the games coming out at once, I don't have any time to sit down and play. This close to the holidays I have too much to do in real life that I can't take time to do more than glance at the news games I downloaded recently. I really wanted Mario Kart 7 on release, but knew I wouldn't have time to play it until after the holidays. So it's just as well asking for it as a gift. But again that means the other cool games will be put on hold.




I must say I didn't like it. It was difficult to justify that many games coming through the letter box in such a small period of time in such difficult economoic times. After 10 hours of play I sold Sonic Generations (yes, already) to finance other purchases. I know you don't have to get all games on lauch day but still. This was inhibited by shopto allowing pre-orders from way back and allowing to pay vie paypal (e-bay sale money) and at anytime during year. So the money didn't all go out at once. Even then it was hard. Rayman Origins is the one I haven't got yet.



MR_SUPREME69 said:

I know this is a nintendo site but who talks about sonic generations and mario and sonic olympic games when uncharted 3, gears of war 3, cod, assassins creed, etc are also released...NUTS who cares about mario and sonic olympic games its just mini games for god sakes.



WaveGhoul said:

The videogame industry in this day and age is like being stuck inside a massive video game jungle...Think about it....The Wii, WiiWare, Wii VC, XBOX 360, XBOX Arcade, PS3, PSN, PS1 Classics, 3DS, 3DS VC, 3D Classics, DSi Ware ect's insanity and flat out ridiculous to even keep up with.

I miss the NES, SNES & Genesis days.....Much simpler times. It almost seemed like every kid on the block had an NES at the time, while 1/100 had a Sega Master system. No downloads, next to no competition, just 'games' on one system and one system only. You put in the game and you were ready to go.

Anyways, I've gone back to being strictly Nintendo. I can't afford to keep up or waste my time with the other systems, not to mention I've completely skimmed over DSiWare(Shante aside). It's all just very overwhelming and i don't have the time. Wii, VC, WiiWare + 3DS, 3DS VC, 3D Classics and DS(retro nintendo aside) is my modern choice of gaming. zoink!



Jamouse said:

That's the whole point of the article!
There are so many big name titles released in the holiday period that we don't know which ones to buy.
(Okay, as you said, we wouldn't buy MASATL2012G (lol) since it's just a bunch of minigames.)



Luffymcduck said:

Most good games come out in Christmas but new Pokémon games mostly come out in spring or summer. Also, Super Mario Galaxy 2 was released in Europe in June.



Toasty said:

This year was crazy, concerning games. Such an amzing amount of high-class stuff.. I honestly had trouble keeping track of them all.


I'd say that it would definitely better if games were shattered over the whole year. The amount of money you spend on them will most likely stay the same, but the time factor clinches your throat at this rate. lol
I'm just curious how the companies will come to an mutual agreement on when the titles will be released. I mean, nobody would want to give up on having their game under the Christmas tree.

Not sure if I'm right, but this season was expetional in ways of quantity. Just because of the 3DS' first Christmas (which adds a Mario Land/Kart to the cart) and the fact that we had a new console Zelda incoming, which happens every once in a while. Not to mention the upcoming Olympics - and there we go with -5 games.
The only real exception for me was Kirby with his two games. And they're both not bad either.. Yes, it sure was hard to chose from all those games. @!



Gamer83 said:

Outside of Zelda, there was literally nothing worth a damn on Wii this whole year in North America. The 3DS wasn't much better but at least it got two big games in time for the holidays in Super Mario 3D Land Mario Kart 7.

I do agree though on the HD side there were some games that could've and probably should've been released earlier. Something like Saints Row The Third which is an excellent game is going to be overlooked because of stuff like Gears 3, Halo, Uncharted 3, Skyrim, Batman, Assassin's Creed and of course MW 3 and Battlefield 3. Forza 4 is a great game that I wanted to pick up but couldn't because I didn't have the money and frankly it's not as high on my priority list as some of those games. Perfect time to release that game would've been June or July when not much was on the market. Instead they put it out right in between Batman: Arkham City and Uncharted 3 and unfortunatley, sales suffered because of it.

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