Opinion: Why Do We Encounter the Summer Slums
Ah, the summertime. The sun is shining, the water is warm and inviting, people are going on vacation, and gamers have absolutely no important game releases to look forward to. Maybe we will see a licensed title here or there for the big summer blockbuster movies, but on the whole, important video game releases simply don’t happen in the summer. Why is this? Why does our industry seemingly get put on hold, or at the very least slow down in the summertime months?
Well, there are a couple reasons. The first and perhaps most obvious reason is that fewer people are playing video games in the summer. This may sound like I’m an old mother trying to tell her kids to play outside, but summer just isn’t a season when people’s activity of choice is staying indoors and playing video games. There are beaches to go to, rivers to raft, and water parks to play in; not to mention several people are spending a good portion of their summer away from their house on vacation, and thus away from their consoles as well. Releasing a new title during a season when people just aren’t playing video games would be a bad bet for getting massive sales numbers.
However, when you examine the summer slum a bit deeper, a whole host of other reasons show themselves. For example, money makes the world go round, but do people have the money to spend in the summer? I’ve already said that people are spending money on vacations, which are hefty expenditures indeed, but people are also spending more money on air-conditioning their houses in order to survive the summer heat. This causes a non-negligible increase to the power bill as well.
However, research has actually shown that people spend less money in the summer and more in the winter. So, releasing games when people are spending less is also a bad idea.
But why do people spend less money in the summer than in the winter? One word: holidays. The flood of games that hit us after September? Those are all prospective holiday purchases for friends, family, and other loved ones. Just look at the new consoles coming out this year. Both are hitting right before the holiday period in order to give themselves a boost in sales. The games that come out in early January and February? They’re leeching off the holiday money that you got and now are looking to spend. That, and we all know you have some store credit left over from those presents that you covertly returned.
However, there are reasons even beyond money that play into generating our summer slums. Honestly, one of the biggest reasons that we find ourselves lacking big game releases in the summer is game hype itself. E3, one of the biggest gaming conferences in the world, takes place during the summer; many game companies turn their focus to putting on a good show for E3 rather than actually releasing games. Give companies a couple months to finish up their projects after E3’s big show and what do you get? Fall, right in time for the holidays.
Not only that, but future-game hype does kind of kill present-game hype. Here’s the scenario: you get a chance to go to E3 and you play Super Awesome Video Game Brothers VII there. SAVG7 is still in development and is likely going to come out either late this year or early next. The game was awesome and you can’t wait to get your hands on the full version. But, next week, Random Shooter: Special Black Troop Operatives comes out. It’s cool, but it’s pretty much the same shooter you’ve seen before.
You have $60 to spend. What do you do? Do you buy RS:SBTO or do you save it for SAVG7? If you have the money to burn, maybe you’ll purchase RS:SBTO, but most people simply won’t be as hyped for the currently-released game as for the game coming in the future, and thus wouldn’t buy it.
Don’t believe me? Let’s try a more down-to-earth example. You have $500 to spare right now. Congratulations. Are you going to spend it on a bunch of new games? Or say, a 3DS and a Vita? Or are you going to wait and purchase a new PS4 or Xbox Infinity? Case in point.
Honestly, there’s no real way to cure the summer slums, and we probably shouldn’t be looking to do so. Because, as frustrating as the dip in sales is to video game developers, the pause from gaming gives us a chance to unwind. It allows us to get excited for new games that are coming up and appreciate the games that we already bought without ditching them for a new flavor of the week. It’s great for our mental stability as gamers and prevents us from getting tired with the medium. It’s, frankly, good to get a break once in a while. Still, it would be nice if we had one or two big name titles to play in August. I’m just saying…
– Angelo D’ Argenio is a freelance staffer at Arcade Sushi. His opinions are his own and do not reflect the opinions of the staff at Arcade Sushi or Townsquare Media. (He also thinks it would be cool if we could have summer game release beach parties. Yeeeeeeah….)