Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Monthly Hate - October and November. Every year.

The Monthly Hate is a (rare and non-monthly) feature
where I try to complain about things.
I'm not a huge complainer, but I'll do my best.

I'll start with swearing more.

I have a love/hate relationship with The Fall Rush. October and November are basically our Christmas - it's a two-month celebration of (what is often) the best in gaming - but this is both a blessing and a curse. Let's look at the next two months, shall we?

(Deep breath) Dark Souls, Rage, Batman: Arkham City, inFamous 2: Festival of Blood, Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3 (Kayla), Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Assassin's Creed: Revelations and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

I'm sure I've missed one or two - my apologies - but even without the inclusion of games I've forgotten, that list requires a hearty whatthefuck?

How, developers? How, publishers? How are we to buy and play your games when there's all these other games? Remember last year's Enslaved or Vanquish? Probably not - not when they were released alongside Call of Duty: Black Ops, Halo: Reach, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Dead Rising 2, Fallout: New Vegas, Fable III and God of War: Ghost of Sparta.

Here's the problem... Enslaved and Vanquish are good games - good games no one bought, no one played, and no one really cares about. This is what happens when you lay a diamond ring next to a crown. The ring may be made with equal care and craft, but the crown is shinier - so which would you reach for?

I ask you, developers and publishers - why are you selling your rings in a crown store? And, ridiculously, for the same price as said crowns?

There must be a reason, for it - some point and purpose. I like to think publishers are able to pour over some mathematical equation - some metric - that gives them just cause to release their tiny, bright-eyed, optimistic titles next to leviathans like Call of Duty. Perhaps it doeswork, on their end - perhaps they are assured of making more money when they release in Septem-Octo-November than they would if they released in June or July - but wait...

When Atlus released the profoundly weird and obscure Catherine in late July, it quickly became their most successful launch of all time. Gamers remain gamers year-round, but the industry seems content to only really feed us our life's-blood when Christmas looms near.

The holiday shopping season is worth its due respect, of course. People (myself included) spend ridiculous sums of money between November and January - significantly more than the rest of the year combined - and should a publisher release its games within that window, they can be assured of shelf space, while lesser titles from earlier in the year are swept aside in early sales to make room for newer releases.

This is, perhaps, why games like Enslaved and Mirror's Edge made sure to release in the holiday window - not that it served them well. Mirror's Edge's commercial performance was labeled a disappointment by publisher Electronic Arts, and attempts to develop a sequel have been repeatedly shut down by the giant. Enslaved - equally well-received by critics - performed just as badly, and developer Ninja Theory quickly moved on to other projects, rejecting talk of turning their newest IP into a franchise.

If it is indeed wise to release high-budget, high-quality but low-hype games during the holiday season, why does it not seem to pay dividends? Where the fuck is BrĂ¼tal Legend II?

If it is - as it seems - more wise to release these triple-A yet lower-tier games earlier in the year as Atlus proved with Catherine, as Sucker Punch proved with inFamous, as Remedy proved with Alan Wake, why are so many developers and publishers throwing their games into the financial vacuum of the holiday season, where they are more like than not to be ignored?

I won't ignore them. You won't ignore them - but we're people for whom gaming is something of a way of life. We make it our business to be aware of these titles - we're well-read on this - but when the holiday season comes around, the games that really matter to The Buying Public (who have much deeper pockets than our collective bankrolls) are the franchises.

Look again at the list in italics at the top of this article - only one game (Rage) isn't a sequel. The biggest games are all sequels - with loyal fan bases who will assuredly pick up the latest iterations of their favorite titles. This is a blessing and a curse, as - for example - analysts expectModern Warfare 3 to sell between ten and twenty million units this year.

Between ten and twenty million units. If you want to split the difference and say fifteen that is, to be clear, nine hundred million dollars - near enough to a billion - that the buying public won'tbe spending on Bright Eyed Studios' Little Inspired Indie Game.

So, basically: good luck, Sideway.

Aside from the higher-minded distress that worthy studios may find their hopes - and so, future creative efforts - swept away in this tidal wave of commerce, I do of course have a much more selfish reason for being bothered by all this.

I have no time for it. Rage is an open-world FPS, and I'd be a fool to think it would take me less than twenty hours to defeat it. Dark Souls will - if Demon's Souls is anything to go on - take around five times that.

If I managed to do nothing but game between the fourth and the eighteenth of October, it's still almost impossible for me to finish (and so, review) those two games before Batman: Arkham City drops - and after that it's a mere fourteen days until Uncharted 3. Ten more to Skyrim, and a mere four days later? Assassin's Creed: Revelations.

So, again - Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, Sony, Bethesda, Warner Bros, Namco Bandai - how?

How can you possibly expect me to play and love all these games at once? What, am I some sort of game whore who can just flop from one tender title's embrace to another?

Give me time. Give me the required hours and days to fall in love with one title before you thrust another sealed, blushing, eager-to-please disc into my arms.

I've got a full-time job, God damnit!


  1. Gamers as a whole seem to have a tremendous bias towards 'now.' This game is out, I must play it right now! I must finish it now so that I can play the next thing right now! Scarcity is no longer an issue. Games are not going to disappear if you don't snap them up right now and consume them as fast as they arrive. Don't gorge yourself just because the feast is there.

    Good (and bad, for that matter) games have no expiration date. I understand that you are trying to review current games for your blog, and for that I salute you. However, you know you want to play Chrono Trigger, just do it.

  2. I have to agree with chamberlain, especially since I generally don't have a great deal of disposable money each year. The games I most often get on release are limited editions that have piqued my interest or games that I know will struggle if they don't get those first numbers in. For the really big titles that are virtually guaranteed to get millions of copies out in the first couple weeks, I'll wait a year or two until the price has gone down (unless, like I said, it's part of a limited edition I'm interested in).

    Prime example for me is the Assassin's Creed series. I've waited at least a year after each game has come out to get each, and since I have no interest in the multiplayer aspect of the series, I have no problem getting them long afterwards. Sure, doing this wouldn't go over well with many people, but in my opinion the main point of the games is the gameplay and the story, so missing out on the multiplayer seems like a fair deal to me. In fact if it weren't for Skyrim's awesome Collector's Edition, I most definitely wouldn't be getting it at launch. Being a Bethesda title, it's pretty much guaranteed to be buggy as hell the first few weeks/months.

    But I do agree with you. I wish game companies would release games at other times during the year. I understand why they release everything now, because of all the non-gamers buying lots of presents for the gamers in their lives, but it's terribly unreasonable for smaller releases.

    Also, have you heard that VC3 may be localized?

  3. Pff. I'll believe that when it's announced. Don't you dare get my hopes up!

  4. That reminds me - I need to import Grand Knights History.

  5. Oh, another thing: I finally got Enslaved over the summer. It was $20, how could I not? Anyway, I thought it was an excellent game. It had its problems, but I didn't really find any of them terribly annoying. But that ending was just so...lackluster. That was the first time in longer than I can remember where I was truly disappointed by a game :/