Why I appreciate the summer videogame drought

At this time of year new game releases effectively disappear. There may be one or two, and some years do contain a big release to break things up, but on the whole the releases dry up. This year doesn’t seem to be any different and already I have seen people online complaining about the fact. The summer drought (or winter freeze for those in the southern hemisphere, don’t worry I haven’t forgotten the other PAL members) is unfortunate, as it is a clear weakness that exists in the industry. The film industry also has a dropoff in output during the period, but the content it does put out at this time of year is carefully planned and there is still enough to mostly satisfy cinema goers.

There is a reason why a large percentage of the big action blockbusters are released at this time of year. People are off school, and this incorporates a large number of people in the supposedly lucrative under 24 market, and in addition for those of a certain age the parents/guardians might be dragged along as well. There is a reason why the Transformers movies have all been released in the run up to summer, it also tends to get in slightly early so it can grab as much money early on as possible before competition arrives. Although this year there are more interesting action blockbusters being released such as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and of course Guardians of the Galaxy. Then again back in 2010 Inception was released during the summer period.

Back to videogames. This summer is not looking very inspiring, the only notable release is The Last of Us Remastered but a re-release isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of a big new game, regardless of how good it will be. Then there is the excellent Shovel Knight, but if you want it on anything other than PC and live outside of North America then you have to wait for an unknown amount of time (regardless of whether you understand English).

It is a shame that videogame releases aren’t more staggered across the year, because the current situation is very top heavy around the fourth quarter (Q4). This is only slightly better than how things used to be when everything was rushed to be released before Christmas. Some games would not receive the polish they required (although this still happens) whilst others would get lost amongst the deluge of titles (such as Rayman Legends). I remember being very relieved that Mass Effect 2 and 3 were released after Christmas and that they usually fell in the gap free between exams and essay deadlines.

However with so many games released during one window it is very difficult to play all of the titles that you would like, and that’s if you had the time. If you have many other commitments then it becomes an almost impossible task. This required prioritising which games to get based on how long or what kind of game they were and whether they would fit into a tight schedule. This is not the best way to enjoy videogames, as it makes it feel more like a task of just finishing them, rather than playing them for enjoyment.

This is why the summer drought (winter freeze) has been so beneficial for me in recent years. Summer traditionally has been the one time of the year where I have had the most free time available to me. Whilst this wasn’t quite the case when I was working during the summer, or now, but my evenings are my own rather than potential reading/essay writing/revision time. It has been during this time of year that I take advantage of the lack of new titles and delve through the many titles that I never got round to playing for one reason or another. The other benefit to this is that it is more cost effective as now most of these games have come down in price and can still be purchased new. Even though I don’t actually buy that many games when they are first released, I do find that I get a lot more for my money at this time of year (Steam sales not included).

A couple of years ago I took full advantage of my summer break and caught up after what had been a particularly busy Q4. I had a great time as I was able to leisurely play through a diverse collection of games that I had amassed for myself, and the period of time felt much more rewarding. This year has been slightly different as there hasn’t really been any recent titles that I wanted to catch up on. This in part has been due to the arrival of the new consoles, which has also contributed the state of this years drought (freeze), but last year having purchased a Vita and a PS3 I now have certains series’ available to me that I have missed out on.

If there had been a continual output of new releases I would have unlikely been able to go through the games that I have. That is not to say that I would have been completely unable to, but to be able to go through the entirety of the Metal Gear Solid series and then the Uncharted series during this time has been an effective use of this quiet period. Even though I do appreciate this opportunity, I must admit that in the long run it would likely be better for the industry if releases could be better staggered across the year.

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