I spend a lot of time staring at our release calendar. For my job, I mean. I don't just sit there staring in a fetishistic way; that would be super creepy. Rather, I use it a lot to try and figure out what games we have/need for upcoming...
I spend a lot of time staring at our release calendar. For my job, I mean. I don't just sit there staring in a fetishistic way; that would be super creepy. Rather, I use it a lot to try and figure out what games we have/need for upcoming review and Quick Look content. If you ever bother to look at this page as I do, you may have noticed that since April, the calendar's been a bit dry. In fact, for a long while there, last week's calendar only showed one new game: Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move, an eShop download for the 3DS. By the time the week began, that calendar began to fill out a bit more, with such rousing titles as the (delayed) XBLA version of Monaco, a PS2 Classics re-release of Fatal Frame II, and the advergame Doritos Crash Course 2.Though I sort of wish it weren't hitting, quite literally, THE DAY after E3 ends, I'm thrilled that a game as big as The Last of Us is coming out in a space where most big games fear to tread.Yep, it's official: We are in the thick of the spring/summer doldrums.It happens most every year. By the time the holiday season winds down, game releases begin to dry up. It used to be that we wouldn't see much of anything for the entire first half of the year, though in recent years the first quarter has at least been a steady home of big releases that either slipped out of the holiday schedule, or just floated into March to help pad out a publisher's fiscal report. This February/March was actually pretty heavy with quality game releases. But now that we've gone past the end of every publisher's fiscal year (which ends on March 31), the quality has begun to take a precipitous dip.Things aren't as bad as they used to be by any stretch--the last couple of years have seen some pretty great games like Mortal Kombat, Portal 2, Diablo III, and Max Payne 3 hit during the late spring--but as I look through this year's current release calendar, all I see for weeks on end are one, maybe two noteworthy releases pocking each month's schedule. This week, we got the one-two punch of Metro: Last Light and Dust 514. Two weeks after that, the Insomniac-developed multiplayer shooter Fuse (which one gets the impression EA couldn't figure out a better release week for). The week after that, Capcom's futuristic adventure Remember Me is the biggest game of the week (see previous parenthetical, substitute Capcom for EA). Then, the week of E3, Animal Crossing: New Leaf hits, followed that Friday by The Last of Us. Eventually we'll see the likes of Game & Wario, Shin Megami Tensei IV, and Deadpool, but that's about it until the calendar picks up again in August.So tends to be the way of the spring/summer release calendar. A few big games spread across months of time, like butter scraped across too much toast. This notion of back-loading game releases into the holiday season is practically as old as the industry itself. After all, video games began, at least from a marketing perspective, as an offshoot of the toy industry. It's irrefutable fact that people spend more money on toys and video games during the holiday season than they do any other time of the year. That's been true even during our most recent recession, and it's seemingly been the guiding ethos for publishers looking to find an ideal calendar spot for all their big games.But just because sales invariably pick up heavily in the holiday months doesn't mean that there isn't value in those long, hot, slow summer months. Microsoft practically owned the digital game market when it introduced its Summer of Arcade push. Out of that promotion, hugely popular downloadable titles like Geometry Wars 2, Braid, Shadow Complex, Limbo, and Bastion have emerged. Now Microsoft even has competition from Sony, with its PSN Play program, which theoretically should inspire both companies to be pushing for higher quality summer content. Then again, considering what a drag most of Microsoft AND Sony's summer digital lineups were last year (a few outstanding games like Sou
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