Video games used to suck from January 1st to August 31st. We're talking a good nine months of suckage. In the time between the big blockbusters, you could have a baby.
From September 1st to New Year's, though, was insane. You knew the next Zelda, Halo, Half-Life and Grand Theft Auto were all going to come out within the same 16 week period.
And now? There isn't a video game season at all. L.A. Noire came out in the Spring. Duke Nukem Forever took 13 years and still didn't bother to come out during the holidays. Does your bank balance seem a little lower right now? It's because you are now holiday broke year round.
What I find hilarious is that, from childhood until, like, last year, I was the main one bitching about the overcrowded year-end releases. "Why can't I get good games in February? I'm too busy in the fall and bored to death in the Spring!" and so on.
Things have changed. A delay pushed the seminal Grand Theft Auto IV from Winter 2007 to Spring 2008, and its 5-mil sold helped publishers realize that all blockbusters didn't have to come out during the colder months. Things have never been the same, and, though I hate to admit it, we may have lost something in the process.
The first issue is that you're broke. So-called triple-A titles are coming out at least once a month. The problem is that we don't have the positive dilemma of choice. In Fall 2004, I remember the difficult choice between Halo 2 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas – $50 and several hundred hours each (I chose GTA). Back then, the plethora of options at once meant that you had to be smarter with your gaming spending. I don't envy kids who saved up their paper route money, like I did, but today have a new $60 game (with DLC!) tempting them every other week.
The second issue is that you lose the excitement. You knew, starting with EA's Madden update in August, that it was going to be an awesome overdose of gaming. At least for me, it's hard to get excited when yet another supposedly groundbreaking title premieres as regular as the Sunday New York Times.
Finally, you may be getting weaker games. Before, the pressure was to get a game out in time for the holidays. Today, the pressure is to have new, big-budget games on the shelf all year. The easiest way to do that? Make another sequel. It's obviously just a theory, but in the future I'd love to talk to my game developer brethren about how the new gaming economics are affecting their creativity.
Does anyone else miss video game season? It's starting to feel like having Christmas every day: Exciting in theory, but ultimately boring in practice. The rarity is exactly what made it special.