Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Rise of Q1 Releases in the Video Game Market

In Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 you get to play
as the human versions of the PSP, DS, and the Game Gear(?)
Today, the day right before Thanksgiving, Nippon Ichi Software America has announced the released date for Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2. Per the press statement, the game will be released on February 2012 in the first quarter of the month. While it is a sequel to one of my favorite games, it will be in very good company due to an avalanche of releases right after Christmas. I have noticed it for a while, but gaming publishers are slowly transitioning from the heavily holiday-dependent cycle to releasing a steady amount of interesting games over the course of the year.

Highest selling game of 2011
In the past, the January to March period after Christmas was ignored. It was with good reason, the Video Game Industry in the past had a very cyclical cycle. With the cycle, game sales were low and steady from January to around October. From that point the game sales would accelerate to its high point in December thanks to the Christmas shopping season. The gaming industry accommodated for it and released the big games during late fall and early winter. After releasing the biggest games on the holiday season, gaming industry executives started noticing a trend, the big releases get bigger sales, but other games fall by the wayside. Even big budget games don't meet sales expectations and can have devastating effects on a gaming studio.

Soul Calibur V, looks awesome.
Games falling by the wayside has been exacerbated by a bifurcation of the videogame industry to low budget and high budget games. This bifurcation is due to the high production values on the video game consoles and the rise of gaming on portable media devices. In console gaming, a game must have million-dollar budgets, huge production teams, and incredible production values to gain attention. Paying for the huge production teams and incredible production values comes with a huge price tag, and it significantly increases the risks of game development. The failure of a high budget game can lead to studio closures. Low budget games have been gaining traction due to the cheap prices on smartphones like the Andriod phones and the Apple iPhone. The main issue with low budget games is that so many low budget games are released that it becomes harder for a small development team to stick out of the crowd. The two extremes has led to a complete destruction of the mid-level game development budget that fits between the high budget and the low budget games.

With the increased risk that the gaming industry is finding itself, they are slowly starting to release more games outside the traditional Christmas shopping season, it makes sense for a variety of reasons. First, a game released outside of Christmas will tend to stick out more, compared to when it is released with massive lineup of heavily marketed games. Second, a game that is released in the beginning of the year has a change to sell consistently over a period of time, as opposed to the holiday season where they may see huge initial sales, leading to a huge drop-off when the next big budget heavily-marketed video game come out. The third reason is simple, it makes a publisher look better releasing games over the course of the year as opposed to releasing it all in one period. These reasons and more are why the change is happening.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 joins a list of games that will be coming out in the first quarter of 2012:
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2
  • Soul Calibur V
  • Resident Evil: Revelations
  • Hakouki
  • Mass Effect 3
  • SSX
  • Tales of the Abyss 3DS
  • PlayStation Vita
That is quite an impressive list of games for a period that has in the past been ignored by gaming publishers. As I mentioned earlier, the reason for this impressive list makes sense. The ever crowding lineup of the holiday season means that it is harder for a game to stick out. The bifurcation of market makes it harder for mid-level games to gain traction. Most importantly, it just makes sense when you think about releasing a game in the first quarter of the year.

3 comments:

Rich$Con said...

I'm still waiting for Tales of Richard & Company.

KrisZ said...

Just make our RPG into a game, voila!!

Anonymous said...

Dang, Hyperdimention Neptunia 2 is coming out so soon.