With the summer season ending, we are entering one of the major game release periods for the industry. One of the often overlooked areas of the industry is how developers do plan around these periods when deciding to release their titles.
Releasing your game is an important consideration and today’s post examines some of the major release and sales periods in the industry for you to look at before deciding to reveal your title.
AAA Rush (September- November):
When it comes to the AAA industry, September-November is the first major period for AAA releases. This is when we usually see annual series like Call of Duty or big name series like Grand Theft Auto or Mario released to the market.
The big reason why this three month period is important is that it gives big name titles enough time to be bought by the hardcore fans while still being fresh in the consumer’s mind for the holidays. The idea isn’t to release a game just before the holiday rush, but to release it now so that people will be looking forward to it for the duo of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
While some AA titles may come out at this point, they are usually saved for the second release period.
The next sales period that developers need to be aware of is April to June. This is where we see more AA titles released or AAA titles that may not have the same “wow factor” as games like Call of Duty.
The first reason is obviously to avoid competing with the games released during the first sales period we’ve talked about. Second is that games released during this time are meant to lead into the summer vacation. This way, customers will have them in their minds for when they’re going to have time off or for students no school and be able to buy and play them.
Another more recent reason behind this period has to do with the now annual tradition of the Summer Sale that stores have which we’ll be coming back to shortly.
While it’s important to keep these two timing windows in mind, it also depends on who you’re aiming for with your game. Strategy titles or other niche genres don’t have to worry too much about these windows as their fan base is so selective. However, if you’re trying to appeal outside your main fan base, it’s good to avoid releasing a game to compete with the AAA market.
Before we move on to game sales, it’s important to talk briefly about the two big lulls in the AAA market.
The Quiet Months:
There are two periods where we don’t see a lot from the Game market — late summer of July and August and late winter of January and February. Examining the market trends to explain this would be a bit too big for this post. But for the developers reading this, these two periods are the most opportune time to release your game and not have to worry about AAA titles.
The only exception would be the yearly release of Madden by EA Sports in August, but unless you are trying to compete with a sports title, you shouldn’t have to worry about it. Moving on, game sales have become a major part of selling the game.
Game sales have become very commonplace in the industry over the years as we’re now seeing weekly and even daily sales from a lot of digital stores. For these sales as a designer, you can’t really base your own game on them as they are far too frequent. Instead we can focus on the major seasonal and holiday sales.
The first period is the fall sale period, which sometimes crosses over into a Halloween sale. This period is usually late September to the end of October. For AAA games released during this time, they will most likely not be on sale in preparation for the next sales period.
As far as sales goes, this isn’t a huge time as it is seen as the stepping stone to our next sales period.
Winter and Holidays:
The winter sale period is the big one for the latter half of the year. It consists of two major events: Black Friday and Cyber Monday and the annual winter sales. Starting at the end of November and going into December, this is huge for the Game Industry as the holidays will coincide with the sales. Any games released during this time will most likely have some kind of discount as to not look like the only games at full price.
This period is big for all parts of the Game Industry and should not be ignored with Steam’s Winter Sale being the biggest next to their summer sale which we’ll talk about in a minute as there is an often overlooked period.
The spring sale period is usually March to April and is the first sales period following the winter lull. Similar to the fall sale, while there may be some noticeable sales that happen, most people and sites are more concerned about the following sale.
The last sales period is the biggest: Summer. After the success of Steam’s summer sale this has become an annual tradition of major savings for the Game Industry. Lasting between June and sometimes into July, this is where almost every store that sells video games will have a sales period.
Thanks to the rising popularity in sales in the industry, this time cannot be ignored by anyone releasing a game as we’ve seen sales go as far as 85 to 90 percent off on certain titles. Some digital sites will either compete with Steam or have their summer sale before or after the Steam one. With so many eyes looking for sales, this is the best time to have discounts or promotions as there will be many people looking for impulse buys.
Stores to look for:
Lastly for this post, we have a list of some of the major stores, both digital and physical that will celebrate these sales periods.
- Best Buy
Understanding the best times to release or put your game on sale is very important and can be underutilized by designers not familiar with marketing. And as games are being released more frequently, knowing the big picture of the market cannot be understated.