So... six weeks until Christmas. For a kid, six weeks is an eternity. It's the start of that agonizing stretch, a combination of torture and excited anticipation. Come to think of it, that's pretty much the same for me. I've been trying not to notice the looming presence of the holiday season, but the big Santa Claus parade is coming to town this weekend, which makes it pretty hard to ignore. If it hasn't started happening already, soon we'll be swarmed with Christmas lights and store displays and Coke commercials and noon-2pm mall Santas. It's commercialism at its best (worst?), but it's also cheesy fun, and you always hope that at least a little "peace on earth" spirit finds its way somewhere in the mix.
In gaming terms, the approach of Christmas means an absolutely insane new release schedule. I'm still trying (and failing) to get caught up on the LAST wave of hot new games, only to get plowed back under by yet another, with surely many more ripples still to come. Regardless of your gaming tastes (or the tastes of those you're shopping for), you can bet your bottom dollar -- make that spend your bottom dollar -- that you'll have to choose between a wide variety of new releases.
Even for the staunchest adventure-only gamers, there's a lot to go around. Just offhand, I can think of about 20 adventures that have been released since the start of October or are due imminently. Plenty more have released in that same timeframe in non-English markets, and at least another 10 have projected a release before year end. That's a lot of games.
Personally, I never understood the holiday release frenzy, regardless of the product. Toys, games, movies, music, whatever. I mean, I get that everyone is out spending money at Christmas. Sometimes a lot of money. Sometimes too much money. So timing a release for the busiest shopping period of the year makes sense... except for the fact that everyone is doing it. In an ideal world, that would mean that everything sells like hotcakes (speaking of which, has anyone ever bought a hotcake?), and it's a merry Christmas for everyone. But in reality, that not-so-perfect world we live in, something's gotta give, right? We've all heard stories of one item or another failing dismally, not because of merit, but simply a victim of superior quality or even overwhelming quantity of competition. I wonder if there aren't really more Christmas season disasters than success stories.
Publishers will point to overall sales figures as proof that the theory is still sound, but it's a woefully circular, self-fulfilling argument. Waiting to release all your A-list material until you believe it will sell best naturally results in your best selling period. But all that proves is that people buy the A-list stuff when you sell it. If I'm a movie studio and release a blockbuster in December and a little indie arthouse project in February, I'm not fooling anyone by claiming that ticket sales prove December is the better month to release movies. It certainly doesn't prove that I didn't hurt my own A-list title by releasing it at exactly the same time as everyone else releases theirs. And it also doesn't tell me how my blockbuster might have fared in February, when everyone's sitting at home grumbling that there are no good blockbusters out.
Maybe it's a risk worth taking. Maybe in an age of digital distribution and online sales, it ultimately doesn't matter. But maybe it does. All I know is that if I were a publisher, I'd be diligently targeting a market downtime to peddle my wares. Well, maybe not January, as people are still in shock after opening their credit card bills. But any other time of year is open for consideration. Christmas, no.
Unless, of course, we're talking about Christmas Quest. Try as we might, it's pretty hard to pitch a holiday-themed adventure in the middle of August, so it's December or never. If you missed the historic development debut of your very own Adventure Gamers staff, along with last year's groundbreaking sequel, you've yet to begin the zany pursuit of the Best Adventure Game Ever. But those who have will surely be wondering if the ongoing tale of our beloved Dork and Santa's stray elf will continue this year. And how will Adventure Gamers respond to the gauntlet that's been thrown for this year's Christmas-themed supremacy? Indeed, these are the key questions this holiday season.
But they are only questions. No answers for now. It's Christmas, after all, the season for secrets and mystery and maddening wonder. Not much longer to wait, though. Only six more weeks.
Wait a minute… only six WEEKS??!! I've got work to do, gotta go…
This article originally appeared in Adventure Gamers' now-defunct blog.