The gaming industry is growing at a rapid pace, and that’s not surprising considering that video games are awesome. But on a more serious note, because of this rapid growth it is getting more and more difficult for developers to release their games in a window where they can attract a good audience. Or even an audience who will at the very least check out some of the trailers, streamers and general gameplay. More and more games are being released every year – not including the saturated console indie market – and this is giving less room for video games to breathe in their respective release windows.
Instead, we are seeing cases of not two, but three (I repeat three), triple-A games releasing on the same day. As well as this, we’re seeing games within the same genre released within days of each other, unsurprisingly cannibalising one another. We now have a new type of gaming calendar year where publishers are seriously considering every month of the year to release their game instead of the old industry standard of launching between September to late November.
Some examples to illustrate the importance of timing: Titanfall 2 releasing just after Battlefield V but in the same window as Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. This in turn ensured the game performed worse than EA expected, despite the blatant scheduling flaw of releasing right near another FPS and an invincible titan. And then we can also take last February, where we had Far Cry New Dawn, Crackdown 3, Metro Exodus and Anthem all release within days of each other.
In these examples sadly not every game can win. Titanfall 2 sales did suffer despite its innovative campaign and incredible multiplayer and, in my eyes, acting as the best FPS out of those three games. For the latter example, Crackdown 3 did not perform well due to its, at best, mediocre campaign and plain multiplayer, and the fact it was available on Xbox Game Pass so players could see the mess before driving into it.
On the other hand, despite Anthem’s critical issues, the game performed exceptionally well financially. As did Far Cry New Dawn considering it was a spin-off game in the Far Cry series. As you can see, timing can not just be an influencing factor when it comes to deciding when to release your game: it has now become a crucial, vital aspect of staying in the video game business.
Red Dead Redemption II released by Rockstar North paved away any and all competition on its doorstep when it finally released on October 26th 2018. Rightly so too, since publishers and developers alike knew that releasing near Red Dead Redemption II would be commercial suicide. This is not just due to the game being absolutely gargantuan in terms of marketing hype and anticipation, but the fact that Rockstar North had creation rights. It was always likely to be one of the best open-world games ever made.
This is an instance of where the market knew exactly what was going to happen, knew what precautions to take, and took them safely and securely; unlike the first two examples I’ve mentioned where EA was unsure what the impact would be if they released two FPSs near CoD. I appreciate the financial risk in making that decision, but I don’t appreciate Titanfall 2 being under-served financially; diminishing the chance for a Titanfall 3. Not having a Titanfall 3 in our lives would similarly diminish my soul.
The last great instance I can think of in recent years of games releasing on the same day is one which I alluded to at the beginning of this article. On the 27th October 2017, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and Super Mario Odyssey were released into the world. Three massive games all releasing on the same day, and to some surprise all performing rather well.
Super Mario Odyssey is seen as the second-best game on Nintendo Switch behind Breath of the Wild. Assassin’s Creed Origins revised the franchise’s formula to suit players who want to play in a vast open-world for over 100 hours, and Wolfenstein II is one of the best shooters I’ve played in years. Perhaps this is evidence that games will not necessarily suffer if the quality if high enough.
Like so many things though, all of this is based around timing, and that is something which is vital for success. Especially in the games industry.