Every year is the same; there are little to no games released in July/August and come mid-October the excrement hits the fan and, seemingly, every week has 3/4 blockbusters released. Commonly this time of year is called the “Christmas Games Rush” and it has been a fixture of the industry since the dawn of time.
The games rush exists for one thing and one thing only; to capitalise on the holiday season and to eek out a few more sales. As a business decision it makes perfect sense; people are willing to spend more money around October to December as financial reports will attest – so releasing games in that period WILL see bigger profits. Right?
Well; if this year is anything to go by, no. No it’s not. The winter games rush brings with it several massive problems for the industry that, should they go unchanged for much longer, it will destroy it!This year has been no worse for game releases but nor has it been any better! In a short 10 week window we have seen in and around 100 titles be released; it is overwhelming to see schedules burgeoning with quality games. It feels like that scene in ‘Aliens’ when the marines are being overwhelmed by enemies…
…on top of this, there is the inevitable conclusion that some games would be buried by their bigger, more famous/popular brethren. This year alone we have seen some massive sales failure – ‘Titanfall 2’ is the highest rated shooter of the holiday season, yet has returned lacklustre sales; ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’ and ‘Watch_Dogs 2’ got buried under 10s of higher profile titles. These three games are massive budget, AAA games that will struggle to make it to their sales projections – which is a crying shame because they are critical darlings. Worse than this; I don’t think that EA/Activision/Ubisoft can have too many AAA sales flops on their hands before people start losing their jobs and we see studio closures.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not lambasting choice, choice is a great thing, but we are all victims of a budget and we do have to make tough decisions on what games to buy. That means that there are titles that will naturally get forgotten/buried – but the avalanche of games and certain publisher practices are creating further issues for the consumers.
Making informed decisions is also next to impossible! Sure you can keep up with every marketing campaign and previews throughout the entire year, you could sign up to Alpha and BETA tests and try out the game (although this worked to hinder rather than help ‘DOOM’) and read reviews as they come. But games companies (well the ones who I wouldn’t trust to release quality games *coughBethesdacough*) are turning their back on early reviews; instead sending review copies out on release day and reaping the benefits of the lack of consumer knowledge. No matter what time of year this practice occurs, the sooner it is eradicated the better!
And then we have the biggest problem of the season; the sales.
I love sales and avail of them whenever I can; who can resist bargains? Absolutely no-one and neither should we resist them! But this years winter sales were well and truly insane – every single retailer has went to great lengths to devalue games! This year is the first I can remember that games were being discounted within 2 weeks of being released. Let’s take a look at what (well some) has happened since October;
- ‘Titanfall 2’ was released on the 28th October. I bought it off PSN on the 19th November for £30. A saving of 49% 3 weeks after release (and it was on offer for a week before I bought it).
- ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’ was released on Playstation 4 on 11th October. I bought it off PSN on the 3rd December for £21.99. A saving of 50% less than 2 months after release.
- ‘Watch_Dogs 2’ is currently £30 on PSN, 50% off 4 weeks after release.
- ‘Steep’ is currently selling between £20 and £24.99, (55-60% off less than 2 weeks after its release).
- ‘Dishonored 2’ sold for 45% off a fortnight after release.
There are more big discounts that I haven’t listed (‘Skyrim for example) for space reasons; but it is fucking crazy that I have bought ‘Titanfall 2’ and ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’ for less than the RRP of either.
Why would anyone buy a game day one? I love bargains; everyone does; but this obsession marketplaces have with being the first to offer massive discounts on games will only have negative impacts on the industry.
I had a conversation the other day – I will NOT be purchasing any games on day one, next year – I do not have the money to see a game I want, sell for 30-60% off within a month of release. I will wait for those delicious sales and get my games on a budget. I even saw a person state the following on an online message board “I hate that Nintendo doesn’t reduce the price of their games, and it is this that will STOP me from buying anything of theirs in the future. Fuck Nintendo ripping us off!” – just wow!
This is what this practice is encouraging; which is at odds with the current “Pre-order NOW!” culture the publishers are pushing at us from every angle. No-one will pre-order if the retailers are going to be slashing prices willy-nilly days after release; there needs to be a consistent message and it needs to come fast. If you want us to pre-order (and they do) then you NEED to stop your retailer “partners” slashing prices – if you don’t want this; then let’s go the way of the “game as a platform” route and allow us to opt in to features etc.
Something needs to change with this industry and it needs to happen soon; otherwise I feel that it will be unable to sustain its own weight and it will collapse. Here is a manifesto I would consider as a publisher:
- Release games throughout the year, not just January-March & October-December.
- Work on ways of making games retain their value; drip feed us content regularly.
- Release high quality titles that people will want to keep; like Nintendo does.
- Stop releasing sequels that are unnecessary every year.
- By all means have sales; but do NOT reduce games within their launch month and piss off early adopters.
But what do I know? I’m just a guy at a keyboard.
What do you think of the Winter games rush?
Is it needed anymore?
Should the industry move away from this?