After watching the trailer for the impressive looking Rise of The Tomb Raider yesterday I noticed that its release date was the 10th of November. Wait a second….”Isn’t that the day Fallout 4 is out?” I asked…Yes, it is. Having intended to buy both games I am now faced with a dilemma about which to buy. First world problem for sure but a problem none the less.

…publishers seemingly think you only get paid between September and December, or you just get games for Christmas presents.

Yep I'm skint

Yep I’m skint.

This is just one example of pile -up of release dates for the Christmas/Holiday period. OK, this is the most extreme but even a cursory look at the big releases shows that the publishers seemingly think you only get paid between September and December, or you just get games for Christmas presents.

For your reference, I have collected a smallish list of the AAA titles landing this Q4 below and it shows that between early September and December, if you were fan of these you may have to buy a game more than every fortnight.

01/09/2015 MGS 5: The Phantom Pain
04/09/2015 Mad Max
20/09/2015 Star Wars Battlefront
07/10/2015 The Nathan Drake Collection
23/10/2015 Assassins Creed: Syndicate
27/10/2015 Halo 5: Guardians
06/11/2015 Call of Duty : Black Ops 3
10/11/2015 Fallout 4
10/11/2015 Rise of The Tomb Raider
01/12/2015 Just Cause 3

Fair enough, some of these are on different platforms and as such aren’t applicable but its well documented that a lot of gamers do have a PS4 and a Xbox One for example. Also I do concede that you don’t have to buy them all Day One and in fact given the broken releases of late, its probably best to wait a few weeks, which both benefits your wallet and the overall experience post inevitable patch. However it does still beg the question as to why anyone thinks this is a valid business model when the wrongheadedness surrounding sales figures is factored in.

…it does still beg the question as to why anyone thinks this is a valid business model when the wrongheadedness surrounding sales figures is factored in.

Whilst the CEO’s of the publishers would probably argue that most games are sold at or around Christmas, bar an inheritance from a rich long-lost uncle, it’s a psychical impossibility that I would be able to purchase all of these Q4 titles, yet I have the money to spend throughout the rest of the year and guess what there’s nothing to buy. Apart from peanut butter cups and craft ale that is.

Cast your mind back to Q1/Q2 in 2015. The only big releases were The Order 1886, Bloodborne and if you weren’t lucky enough to own a PS4 you only had Battlefield: Hardline to look forward to. Yeah yeah, there was indie fare like Ori and The Blind Forest but in terms of AAA it was like being in a desert with only one unappetizing dedicated cacti to drink from.

ava

The Q4 avalanche is coming

Things improved with the release of Witcher 3 in late-May and there was a nice gap between that and the upcoming Batman: Arkham Knight (especially given Witcher’s enormous gameplay girth, currently destroying my sleeping habits) but after Batman there is nothing big for months.

Movie studios are pretty much the same. Bar a few big franchises like Bond and Harry Potter, studios feel that to make any money, a blockbuster has be released between the and of April and August. This results in winter being the dumping ground for Oscar bait or action films so bad they could be used to torture unruly prisoners. When considered this also seems slightly counter-intuitive, as summer tends to be nice outside and sitting in dark room full of people rustling Revell’s packets whilst checking Facebook, wouldn’t be peoples first point of call for entertainment.

In the same way studios shouldn’t complain that their movie was a flop when it was released a week after the latest Marvel movie, games publishers can’t complain if they don’t sell enough copies of their new IP when it is was released a week after Call of Duty.

In the same way studios shouldn’t complain that their movie was a flop when it was released a week after the latest Marvel movie,when it may have well found an audience if released in say, November; games publishers can’t complain if they don’t sell enough copies of their new IP when it is was released a week after Call of Duty. It is ludicrous to even suggest it. Video-games, though a broad church now, still tend to appeal to a set demographic and big releases on the same day will result in the games cannibalising each others audience, reducing sales across the board.

For example why do you think Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice moved its release date to avoid clashing with Captain America 3: Civil War? As Warner executives wisely knew as good as the PR of ‘Marvel vs DC clash on  big screen‘ would have looked, audiences for these films would be roughly the same and they would have lost money.

Tied into this is the often unrealistic sales expectations that publishers put on AAA titles. Look at Square Enix…..When they released the superb Tomb Raider reboot in March 2013, it sold well across all platforms and its positive word of mouth not only kept it in the charts for a while but resulted in good long-term sales too. We all know about Square Enix’s griping though and they claimed that it still didn’t sell enough at the time, despite something like 4 million units being logged in the first month alone. This sort of thinking seems systemic of the lack of common sense in publisher boardrooms.

How can Tomb Raider 2 keep up with expectations?

How can Tomb Raider 2 keep up with expectations?

Whats the betting that Rise of The Tomb Raider (which also looks superb) will sell even less? Quite good I imagine, as not only is it a timed exclusive for Microsoft, cutting out the powerful and traditional fan-base of PlayStation owners who currently hold the console market share in their dual-shocked hands, but its up against one of the most anticipated titles in the last five years Fallout 4. My prediction? Fallout 4 will outsell Rise of The Tomb Raider 2:1 (at least) and Square Enix will welp like a kicked puppy about how ‘sales didn’t match the quality of the product‘. Who’s fault is that?

My prediction? Fallout 4 will outsell Rise of The Tomb Raider 2:1 (at least) and Square Enix will welp like a kicked puppy about how ‘sales didn’t match the quality of the product‘. Who’s fault is that?

This is just one example of the finger pointing and ludicrous recriminations which occur after video-games don’t reach the lofty and unreasonable expectations set on them, especially when sales figures are so stupidly weighed toward how something sold in the first few weeks and disregard any momentum that a game may reach. Look at Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, a seminal title and one which in today’s marketplace may be be regarded as an underwhelming seller but over the course of 2 years sold an absolute boat-load through word of mouth alone.

At any rate come January 2016, publishers will doubtlessly be sucking air through their teeth looking at the low sales figures of their great white AAA hope for Q4 and some less patient publishers will probably fire some talented developers and close studios. End result?…. we all lose. So many great studios and talented game makers have been lost this way.

Of course games have to be ready and if say, Rise of The Tomb Raider (sorry for using this as an example again) isn’t going to be done until November, I am not advocating releasing a buggy half made game in August just to get a step ahead of the competition. This rush to get shit out the door before its done to match a prearranged release schedule resulted in stuff like Fallout: New Vegas, a fine game indeed when patched but beset with bugs and game breaking errors at first.

However how about bumping it back to February or March? I am willing to bet RotTR would sell more copies in Q1 2016 than Q4 2015.

At any rate come January 2016, publishers will doubtlessly be sucking air through their teeth looking at the low sales figures of their great white AAA hope for Q4 and some less patient publishers will probably fire some talented developers and close studios.

Anyway, in conclusion, we need games throughout the year. This dribble of AAA titles throughout Q1-3 with the avalanche of games arriving in Q4 isn’t (in my opinion) in the best interests of anyone.

Are you going to pick up any Q4 releases and if so which ones? How do you feel about this bottleneck?

 

 

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Ed F

I am a keen amateur gamer who has always found himself slightly behind the times. My interest in gaming piqued with jealous looks at my friends copy of Duck Hunt on the NES all the way back in the early 90’s. Since then I graduated to a Sega Mega Drive of my own, a late 90s obsession with PlayStation One and then an ill-advised GameCube phase in the early noughties. Since my relatively late introduction to the Xbox360 in early 2009, I have being playing catch up. Among my other interests are comics, movies and boring my wife to death with talk of ‘cinematic tropes’ and ‘narrative arcs’. I am currently gorging myself on the next gen whilst keeping one foot in the previous one.

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4 Responses

  1. New Year says:

    Bony to Beastly— The Skinny on “Just Eat More

  2. arde says:

    oooh tomb raider, no Cod… well shit :)

  3. arde says:

    No brainer – buy CoD, play MP, then buy fallout just as they finish patching the bugs. Easy.

  4. Memo says:

    I totally agree with you !!
    I’ll have to pick between two of my favorite and most anticipated titles just because of this stupid publisher view

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