The Summer Drought

By Callum Thomson

Just like hose pipe bans and “the hottest temperatures since records began”, we have had a ‘summer drought’ of gaming in recent years, one which the AAA titles seemed to avoid, for no reason known to us, other than saving the big titles as Christmas goodies for both children and adults. Now, this year is no different from those past, as most of the big name games are being prepped for release before Christmas in order to try and cash in on all of the present buying, but there are always far too many titles being released in this time period, so, of course, there are always losers.  This year you’ll likely have the clear winners already noted: Gears of War 3, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Battlefield 3, Uncharted 3 and a whole list of Christmas blockbusters, all coming out within a two month period, but then you also have great, yet smaller, games coming out in the same period, which will inevitably lose the battle to try and gain sales. Saints Row: The Third is a good example of this, with its open-world zany actions and off the wall antics, which should, of course, bring in a large number of potential sales, but unfortunately it will perhaps fall short, due to the other games being released around it and so risk being consigned to the bargain bucket.

I shouldn’t really generalise as much this year, as there already seems to be a small wave of publishers seeing the opening of the summer market and releasing some big name titles in order to try and profit from the small calm before the releasing storm. Rockstar Games are the pioneer in this, with their anticipated and incredibly highly rated release of Red Dead: Redemption in May last year, which sold well because it was a AAA title, released in a time where it didn’t really have to compete with other games to gain attention. This year they have followed suit with another May release, L.A. Noire – again, a game that didn’t really have to compete with many other titles to get seen. Although, this year, it hasn’t just been Rockstar spotting the opening for releasing new titles in the summer period.  Other highly sought after titles are being brought out to entice those gagging for a new game to sink their teeth into; this year bringing with it F.3.A.R, along with other big name releases such as Shadows of the Damned, Bodycount, InFamous 2 and, of course, Square Enix’s highly anticipated sequel to the Deus Ex series. Also, we have had delayed releases added into the summer pool, the most notable being the long awaited Duke Nukem Forever. These games, of course, won’t have to compete with other big name titles and will see/have seen some success themselves in a time period which clearly needs some attention.

I have always questioned why publishers haven’t released big name titles in this period in the past. Why keep every single title for the New Year and pre-Christmas seasons, when there is an opening they could use in order to gain more sales if they advertised their games enough? If you think about it, the summer season is a prime time to get games sold; children and students, young and old are being released from the shackles of school, college and university, and are now trying to find something to occupy their time. For a lot of them, their fun comes through the medium of gaming, and this involves all games and all ages. Everyone knows that Call of Duty: Black Ops has a big 18 sticker on it but, again, we have all likely had the pleasure of pre-pubescent angels screaming obscenities down their microphones at us, so there is no denying that if a child of 14 or 15 wants an 18 game, their parents will probably buy it for them just to keep them quiet, no matter how wrong or annoying it may be.  So, I pose the question again, why not release a big titled game, even if it is an 18 or 15 in this time period? People still have birthdays or other occasions for which they could buy games, and if the titles are big enough people will buy them, no matter what time of year it is. I am glad that this has already started happening, but is this through choice or is it necessity?

Games such as Duke Nukem Forever and Deus Ex: Revolution have been brought into this summer period on the back of delays, although, seeing how well games can sell, even out of the season they were planned to be sold in, could encourage companies to rethink their strategies and to bring more and more titles into the gaping black hole that is the Summer Gaming Drought. However, as more games are released in the May/June and August periods, there is still a dry, barren waste that is the month of July. We had two reasonably large titles released, one of which was yet another Dynasty Warriors game and Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon, with neither garnering too much attention. This is still a desert of a month which needs to be filled, and publishers could bring a couple of Christmas blockbusters into this period. If they’re big enough, the Gears of Wars and Call of Dutys of this world will always sell, no matter when they are released. Publishers need to learn that the summer gaming period is not some almighty black hole that will suck any sales it could possibly get into oblivion.

I can, however, empathise with publishers; the Christmas period is where the most money is spent on anything. That’s when the largest amount of money is being made for the incredibly high market titles, but what they haven’t really thought through is whether or not they can make even more by releasing their titles either slightly earlier, or later, in the year. What we are getting at this moment in time is a clog of games at both ends of the year, and not much going on in the middle. E3 and other expos don’t help the situation, releasing trailer and game play footage for all the AAA titles that are coming out at the end of the year, and gamers won’t want to risk buying much earlier on in order to save for the titles that they see everywhere, and are led to believe are going to be incredible.

For this year at least, we have a number of decent titles already out and some lying in wait. We have already had L.A. Noire out this May, which has received a collective score of 89 on Metacritic, a score that you would expect to be given to the Christmas games. L.A. Noire is a perfect example of a great game being released into the drought period, with a compelling storyline and a nod to point and click adventures in its style of searching for clues. It is already proof that AAA titles can be released in this time period without being stunted greatly. Other games coming out in this once dry period included Bodycount, a game for the FPS fan to get their teeth into.  It is nothing truly different from the FPS games of the past, but enough to quench the thirst that some will have while waiting for Battlefield 3 or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 to be released. We also had the next game in the F.E.A.R series, and one which needs no introduction. Of course the big game of the summer period this year, for me at least, is… Rugby World Cup 2011.  Finally, another rugby game brought to the fans, and hopefully, this time, one that can actually be compared to other sports titles, rather than falling short on quality once again. Oh, and there’s some game called Deus Ex: Human Revolution coming out, which a number of people seem excited for.

For the last five years we have had to endure ‘The Summer Drought’ where no notable games have been released to the world and, instead, we have had to wait for September, or even October, before our thirst for a juicy new game has been quenched. Now, as we move into the second decade of the new millennium, publishers finally seem to be spotting an opening in the summer period, and have started to release some big name games to the public. Whether or not this has been a calculated decision, or just a coincidence that may turn out for the best, I don’t know.  One thing I’m sure of is that I’m glad the drought is slowly being lifted, and that we are being drip-fed some big name titles in the vain hope that we will buy them, not just for ourselves, but to occupy the children that have left school (although not as a deterrent from real exercise). We should all sit and be thankful in front of our games console of choice and play the great titles finally being released in a period that once spelled disaster for the gamer, especially since we no longer have to find other forms of entertainment until the big names came out in the autumn.

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  1. Edward Edward says:

    Yay, Callum! :D
    Even without my clear bias, I still think this was a great article that bought up a couple of good points, though I have a thought for you:
    If a company released a game around July/August, then announced a price cut and had another advertising campaign for the lower price right around Christmas, would it sell enough to encourage other companies to do it to undercut sales from other games coming out in the Q4 period?
    Hopefully see more from you on here in future!

  2. Richie Richie says:

    True story.

    One day during the summer drought I received two pre-ordered games. Vampire Rain and Tenchu Z. That’s what the summer drought will do to you. You’ll buy anything. I bought Wartech. IT WAS FUCKING TURD!

    Good article Callum!

  3. SimonJK says:

    Lol, great peice. I recall a, ahmm, few years myself and a freind actually come up name for cr@ppy releases we give given during this type of drought – we called it “Bog Water”. When you have spent long enough in a drough/desert (cannot remember which we said) you will even drink Bog Water, I think it was about the time that Rockstar Table Tennis was released and yes I did buy it.

    It does prove to me that Market Research doesn’t know what the hell they are doing when it comes to games. For example, imagine a time of the year when the children are off school the longest and parents are more libable to buy them anything to get peace and quiet. A time when they are likely to have less home work and more boredom and a techniqally low price item would keep them happy, it’s called the summer holidays! Not only that, parents and adults are more likely to buy the more expensive package deals including console for people and themselves at Xmas time and also lets face it, in the gaming world, games are best bought and played fresh and not released in september/october and not ‘put away for Christmas’, any online player knows that within a month or so the lobbies are dead the then achvmts chances are all but boosted away.

    Lets face it, timed released are a crock. Nowadays, with the internet using stuff like offical sites and facebook advertising, games are advertised so far in advance that the money is saved up a game eagerly awaited to purchase on release and I don’t just mean the one game at a time. Most people know what games they want and have the time to save up for every game they want and will buy it on release, the pre-owned market is generally for the ‘maybe’ list of games and lets face it the ‘Bog Water’ games.

  4. Rook says:

    I don’t mind the summer drought, or other times of year when not many games are being released as it gives me a chance tp play one of the many games on my ‘to be played’ pile. Games that I have bought but have not yet been able to put any time to due to playing other games.

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