Videogames are not just for Christmas

It’s that time of year when commercial breaks are made up of ads for perfume and stand-up comedy DVD’s, people flock to shopping centres like extras out of Dawn of the Dead, and videogame publishers release their big budget titles.

Since Christmas tends to start earlier and earlier you’d think it was bi-annual, as shops tend to hang their decorations up before Halloween in an effort to put people ‘in the mood’. When it comes to videogames, this is also the season where a lot of publishers unleash their big guns (sometimes as early as October), thinking that they’re really clever, because they’ve worked out that everyone buys stuff at Christmas, assuming that the average Joe’s thought process during this period is, “Christmas is coming… must buy game… who is Jesus?”

The majority have released their most high profile games in the run up to Christmas, somewhat failing to realise that many consumers have resorted to limiting their spend, for putting food on the table and keeping a roof over one’s head becomes more important than handing over cash for the latest videogames. There are so many released in such a short space of time, and while some of the latest titles will be huge, there will also be quite a few casualties.

Each console has their killer combo of exclusives. Microsoft have been reminding people that “it’s a great time to be a family” (try telling that to a single parent this Christmas), with ads for Dance Central 2 for the Xbox 360. Players can also use the Kinect on the racing simulation Forza Motorsport 4. Sony bring back Nathan Drake in the action adventure title Uncharted 3 for the PlayStation 3, while RPG fans have Nippon Ichi’s quirky Disgaea 4! Nintendo have struck gold with their magnum opus The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the Nintendo Wii and expect you to work off the turkey fat with the likes of Zumba Fitness 2 and Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games. After a price cut, Nintendo’s 3DS might also find its way as a gift, with the Italian mascot Mario appearing in two 3DS games, Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7.

A range of multiformat titles means that gamers are spoilt with exceptional choice this Christmas. Comparisons have already been made with Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. If you’re after a more futuristic first-person shooter, then id Software has returned with Rage. Prepare to lose sleep with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, or if you’d really like to punish yourself then see how long you can survive with Dark Souls. Action adventure sequels Assassin’s Creed Revelations and Batman: Arkham City continue their storylines. Wave your magic wand and cast spells in Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7, or maybe you’d prefer to wave a four-foot dildo bat in Saints Row: The Third. If beat-em-ups are your thing then there’s Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi, based on the popular Anime, professional wrestling simulation WWE ‘12, or if you’re more of a traditionalist you might prefer the 2D The King of Fighters XIII. Old school characters return in platform adventures Rayman Origins and Sonic Generations. You can thrust your way to ER with Just Dance 3, or if you want to prepare for that illegal street race then Need For Speed: The Run is your game. Lastly, how many of you are even considering DreamWorks Super Star Kartz?

The majority of releases are sequels or part of an ongoing franchise (Rage is one of the few original titles). In case you haven’t already noticed, what you buy now will have a knock on effect on what you’ll end up playing in the future. This is why we’ve reached the third instalment of Gears of War, Resistance, Battlefield, Uncharted, and Just Dance. Originality died a long time ago kids!

This Christmas, consumers are likely to be far more selective in their purchases. With brand new games at a standard retail price of around £40, some of us will probably only be able to afford the odd one or two, so you’ll want to make sure your decision brings just as many hours of joy as a mail order bride. But with so many top quality titles, competition is as fierce as The X-Factor finals.

To a degree, Nintendo appear to be one of the few that understands this, as their CEO, Satoru Iwata, revealed that they were holding back a few key 3DS titles for next year. “We think that some of them may be held for a certain amount of time so that there will be a short interval between when they are completed and when they are launched,” said Iwata. “When we look at the software lineup for the year-end sales season, it is so dense that, if we added any more software, the total sales would not increase. Accordingly, we have intentionally delayed the launch of some software titles to early next year.” Iwata doesn’t reveal which games exactly he’s referring to, but it’s strongly believed that he’s referring to the likes of Animal Crossing 3DS, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Luigi’s Mansion 2, Paper Mario 3DS.

It’s not just the publishers that’ll be praying that you spend your cash on more games this Christmas. On November 16th it was reported that Game Group expected to make a loss of £10 million this year, citing the “extraordinary economic times.” They didn’t have quite the best Christmas last year either. Following the news, their share price slumped dramatically, compared to a year high of 73.25p. In a statement they mentioned that, “Major software titles are launching in line with first week expectations, but are then seeing a quicker tail-off than historically experienced.” It’s often because of this that during the last year a number of high street (and even online) stores mark down games within a month or two after release. Don’t be surprised if you find some of the big budget titles knocked down in price within the first few months of the New Year. In fact, if you can afford to wait, you might be better served after retailers reduce their prices, maybe even finding a bargain in the pre-owned section. Besides, videogames aren’t just for Christmas you know.

However, the other factor specifically facing Game is competition, not just from online retailers but also the local supermarkets. If you can save money by purchasing the latest game at Tesco’s or Sainsbury’s, and still have cash left over to pick up Bird’s Eye Potato Waffles… well, it’s a no-brainer really.

Many believe the video gaming industry to be recession proof, and it’s anyone’s guess if that theory will still hold over the next few years. However, PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that the global console market will continue to grow at 4.4% a year and reach $34.8bn by 2015. Interestingly, they cite how the market still grew during the last few years, having been up 1.9% in 2009 and 5.5% in 2010. One franchise that the industry has become almost reliant upon is Activision’s Call of Duty.

We believe the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is the biggest entertainment launch of all time in any medium,” said Activision Blizzard chief executive Bobby Kotick, after the game broke industry records, selling 6.5 million copies on the day of its release, earning $400 million. “We achieved this record with sales from only two territories,” said Kotick, given that the game had only launched in the UK and US on the day of its release. In the first five days, the game had managed to accumulate $775 million worldwide. Proof, if any were needed, that Activision’s Modern Warfare franchise is bulletproof.

While the success of Modern Warfare 3 is indeed impressive for the videogames industry, it is however just one game. Some publishers will find it a struggle trying to convince gamers (particularly those that have already brought Modern Warfare 3) to part with more cash. And something we’re seeing with many more titles, once you’ve brought your new game, there’s also the downloadable content; extras that the developers could have included in the finished product, but it’s more financially savvy to leave it out. So long as they can squeeze more money out of you and you’re willing go without tea and biscuits for a few days. The developers and publishers will do whatever it takes to stop you from trading your games in.

The summer games drought has often been highlighted, as this year saw a handful of major releases spread out over 3-4 months, such as, Duke Nukem Forever, inFamous 2, Alice: Madness Returns, F.E.A.R 3 and Xenoblade Chronicles. If publishers want to stand even a smidgen of a chance of recouping their costs then they might want to make use of it. But what do I know? I’m often too full of sugary cakes to make any sort of qualified statement. So I’m not going to leave with a list of what games you should purchase for yourselves or your loved ones this Christmas. Lord knows you’ve already got one in mind (Skyward Sword, right?). Still, out of the plethora of titles, which one will you be playing over Christmas? For me, it’ll probably be Yoshi’s Island for the Super Nintendo

Copyright © 2011 MCM BUZZ – Movies, TV, Comics, Gaming, Anime, Cosplay News & Reviews