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December 23, 2013

Is Releasing So Many Games On December A Good Idea?

Once in a while, I have to ask a question that doesn't just involve Nintendo. No, the question today can also be applied to Playstation games and Xbox games. And, Hell, even PC games. Any console, actually. And not just the console; I'm talking here about the video game companies that make the games.

We all know it, Christmas the time for giving. It's the time to hand a present to someone, and maybe receive one in return. In my household, it's become a tradition since my 13th birthday that each member of the family makes a gift to the two others; as a result, I have to find a present for my mother, and one for my father. And so we all receive at least two presents. But anyway, the Holidays are the time for giving, and as a result a lot of people buy presents, either to people they love or to themselves. December is the month during which stores make the most money. It's a very important month for affairs, for capitalism. As a result, if game companies want to rack up the big bucks, they often have to release things in December or right before December, so that the games will be available in stores for the families to buy them for their resident gamer.

Since this is such a time to make money, we often get many new releases in November and December. This year alone, we've got the PlayStation 4 and the XBox One. And those machines will be among the presents under the tree of many a Christmas celebrating family. But there's a few problems with this modus operandi of releasing so many games around December. Is releasing so many games on December a good idea?

I think I already mentioned the good aspects of the idea: The games come out just before Christmas, so they can be bought and offered as gifts. Companies make a lot of money, stores make a lot of money, this is an overall good period for the economy.

Now, the problems. And trust me, there is a lot of problems. If video game companies release their best games around this time period, it sometimes means that they'll release lesser games during the rest of the year. However, in other cases, it's the opposite.

Video game companies are sometimes in a hurry to release something for December. Problem with that is, you can't speed up the making of a game. It takes time to make a good piece of work. The development of a game is very difficult. The first months are fine, but the last months are Hell. In order for the product to be ready by the release date, the development team has to work many hours a day. As in, MORE hours a day than is humanly reasonable. Twelve, often fifteen hours a day. It's a terrible thing also known as "Crunch Time". In order for a game to be perfect, the developers are ready to make all the sacrifices needed. And the way I read it, I don't want to become a developer. Ever. Oh, by the way, Crunch Time? It can be as long as a whole year.

But that's not what I meant. What I meant is that some companies, in their ambition in making more money at the expense of releasing good games, will instead decide to release a game that cannot be considered "finished". This results in obvious betas being sent out in the open, unpolished games with a thousand problems. And of course, gamers find out soon enough about it. These unfinished games are one of the reasons the industry has lost part of its glory. They also become infamous within the fan community. I think I already mentioned the Sonic The Hedgehog 2006 fiasco?

...Yeah, this is the one example that proves my point. If you're a gamer, me saying this game's name is enough. You know what I'm talking about. Glitches, unpolished designs, godawful story filled with plot holes big enough to fit three elephants, just... Too many things that don't work.

As a result, December is the release of many great games, some good games... and a ton of obvious betas that will enrage gamers on their little video game review blogs. Luckily, people have started catching up with this, and will try to get information on a game before buying it. That's the major problem with releasing so many games on December; some of them are actually unfinished pieces of crap, because profit was more important than good work for a company or another. However, there's another reason why releasing so many games around December isn't a good idea. It's kind of ironic that game companies want to release stuff in December so they can make more money; but so many video game companies do this, that in the end there's no difference. The choice is so large that players have to pick among the games that were released for the occasion. Keep in mind that the new games for home consoles cost between forty and seventy dollars. You don't but five of those at once. So, not only is there competition to take out the games in time for Christmas, there's competition between all the games that were released for Christmas.

And it's a real problem, as gaming shows all of its worst sides when Christmas approaches. The bad sides we don't want to acknowledge about the industry. Releasing so many games in December is, in my opinion, DEFINITELY not a good idea. If anything, it reveals an illness in the way things are done nowadays. An illness that is already causing much damage to the image of video game producing everywhere. And if these bad practices don't stop, not only will they get worse, but we might fear about the future of the industry. I think we have very good reasons to worry. Who knows if a new video game crash isn't coming to knock at our doors, with these problems - and more - being only the beginning...

Enough brooding about the future of gaming. Christmas is in two days, and I wish you a Merry Christmas ahead of time, just in case I'm too caught up in the Holidays to pass by. (And by "caught up", I mean busy playing Wii games with my parents, because they'll now both have their own Wiimote.) Stay tuned for the review on December 27th; it's gonna be freaking epic. And also stay tuned for more Demo Reviews as well!