If you play video games regularly, you might have noticed that the summer is perpetually death for new releases. Even a cursory glance at a release schedule will show only a bare smattering of games for the major systems. Oh, there may be a few games worth your time, but nothing that’s going to really stick. Blizzard’s releasing Diablo III on consoles. That’s probably the biggest release for the rest of the summer unless you were so in love with Street Fighter IV that you just have to buy the fourth identical version of the same game. Well, this kind of thing happens every year, and I’m going to explain why as well as canvass the other two seasons of gaming today.
The summer seems, to the hardcore gamer, as the perfect time for releases. To put it simply – there’s no school and students suddenly find themselves with an exorbitant amount of free time. So, why don’t publishers release more content? After all, since the market is so bare in the summer, wouldn’t their games get a monopoly on people’s time? This logic is true to an extent, but it ignores several important factors. Firstly, summer is the worst season for goods such as video games. Summer is also the time where many people go to this unknown land called ‘outside’. Beaches, bonfires, hiking, camping, etc. – these are the obstacles that inside entertainment has to overcome during the hot months. There’s a reason why summer is the time of massive summer blockbusters for movies, while fall and winter are where the critically acclaimed and indie stuff tends to come out; people are hard to pack into a theatre during the summer, so producers give them the biggest spectacle they can to keep them coming in. It’s sometimes important to remember that comparatively few gamers are hardcore enough to skip summer activities.
Then there is the carrot of Christmas. The second season of gaming is something I refer to as the Christmas Rush, or the Holiday Rush, if you will. Unlike the Summer Drought, the Christmas Rush is where you will find the year’s biggest releases all crammed in a four month block starting in September and ending in December. The reasons for the release frenzy may not seem obvious at first since that’s the time where student are inevitably saddled with more debt and less time, and children are more effectively under the yolk of their parents. However, the stress of the winter brings desire for a diversion. As you get into November and December, the games are more and more designed to be given as gifts during the holiday season. The games released during the first half of the rush (September and October) can also serve this purpose residually, but they are often bucked in favour of the newer releases.
So, what I meant by the carrot of Christmas in the previous paragraph is that a game releasing in summer misses the inherent opportunities associated with the Christmas Rush. A wait of only a few months could lead to a massive increase of profits, particularly for heavily anticipated games. By releasing in the summer, a publisher may think they are jumping the gun and undercutting their own profits. Therefore, even if a game is entirely done, it may be for the best to wait until at least September before release.
Finally, after Christmas, there is the second rush and final season of gaming – the February Rush. January is usually clear of major releases with only a few stragglers. This makes sense because many families are financially exhausted after the holiday buying season, and aren’t exactly willing to put down money on a sixty dollar game during the immediate after math. February and March, however, is a different story. The February Rush, despite its name, lasts between February and April, sometimes bleeding a bit into May.
This is where the second set of highly anticipated games get thrown onto the market. The reasons why are as simple as can be – the games weren’t ready for the holiday season. You see, with the Summer Drought, it makes sense to just wait for September. It’s only a few months and it can drastically improve your ability to make a profit off of your investment. If your game misses the holiday season, however, it wouldn’t be financially wise to wait an entire other year. Nor would it be wise, generally, to release in early January. Thus the February Rush was born, where publishers unload their best stuff and steal from the wallets of gamers.
Whenever the February Rush ends, usually April, is when the Summer Drought begins. After two seasons of rushing every workable product out onto the market, you’d forgive publishers if they need some downtime. So, that’s what we have to deal with now when we realize that there isn’t much new to play. If it weren’t for the fact that summer tends to be a big sale season, gamers would probably be really in the lurch.
– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer