Saturday, October 29, 2011

. . . The Gaming Season

In addition to being the periodical of recreational reading preferred by people whose interests include investing, finances, and business, Forbes Magazine fills a number of niche interests, from defining just what it means to be wealthy and who is, by those standards, wealthy...

It should not be much of a surprise that the subject of video games and gaming -- as well as gamers -- has slowly ninja'd its way into the magazine as, after all, the world of games and gaming easily fits into that special interest publication thanks to it applying among several subject headings -- from investment (a lot of game studios and some of the major game publishers are publicly- held companies) to recreation.

A lot of wealthy people (and people who would like to be wealthy) happen to be gamers -- I am not going to make hay on the notion that following the stock market and the process of investing in and speculating on stocks is often referred to by the participants as "playing the game" -- or the connection between competitiveness among gamers and that typically encountered in the world of investing and brokerages. Acknowledging it here should be sufficient to bring it to our attention.

In the Tech Section on the web-version of Forbes Magazine yesterday there is an article whose title is "Nike Says Video Games Like 2K Sports' NBA 2K12 Helps Sell Basketball Shoes" by games journo and contributing writer John Gaudiosi that, within the body, mentions the past performance in sales for the game and its expected sales, which have been severely impacted by the player strike in the NBA presently underway.

This is interesting largely because it demonstrates the relationship between what most people think of as regular seasons with the unique and completely unconnected Game Season, and specifically how the fiscal side of it relates to real-world events.

In the world of video games when a games journo references the 'season' they are not talking about the four divisions of the year (spring, summer, autumn, and winter) marked by particular weather patterns and daylight hours, or even the Financial Seasons that are typically defined as Financial Winters -- a period in which money is in low supply, Financial Springs -- a period in which there is money but its flow is reduced, Financial Summers -- a period in which the flow of money is increased, or Financial Falls -- a period during which cash flow and investments in a company tends to be increased.

The Gaming Season is defined as a standard 12-month period -- independent of the calendar year -- within which there are three distinct sub-seasons: The Holiday Season, Prime Season, and Summer Doldrums. Based upon their names you should be able to deduce with some accuracy the thematic score for this trio of sub-seasons, but to fully appreciate them it really is necessary to dedicate some effort in understanding -- and appreciating -- their unique natures.

Breaking Down the Sub-Seasons of Gaming

The first thing you should accept is that the gaming season violate the calendar, which we can loosely define as a typical year which runs from January through December, contains 52 weeks and any number of holidays, and is a logical way to define time, dates, and within it, seasons. The Gaming Season does not begin in January, it begins in September, with all of the events that take place prior to the magic date of September 1st being part of the previous Game Season.

We are presently in the 2011/2012 Game Season -- that is how we identify them by the way, using the two regular years in which they take place in order to indicate the package that we call the Game Season and that contains the aforementioned trio of sub-seasons.

The Gaming Sub-Seasons consist of:
  • The Holiday Gaming Season
  • The Prime Gaming Season
  • The Summer Doldrums
The Holiday Gaming Season
September 01 thru December 24

As the name implies the first sub-season in gaming also comprises the first four months of the New Gaming Year, and is neatly divided into a pair of ranges, with the first half consisting mostly of games being released partly as a celebration of the end of the traditional final sub-season of the previous gaming year, and partly as a result of time -- more on that n a bit.

The second half of the Holiday Season is just what it sounds like: the period of time in which games that are being intentionally positioned for Christmas sales are released, and promoted.

A question of Time is what largely determined the designation of September as the kick-off point for the New Gaming Year. Several events occur in September of each year, starting with the wholly unofficial but still easily identified rebirth of the working year, the resumption of the education season (which incidentally shares a lot of common characteristics with the gaming seasons) and the cessation of the many elective activities that largely occupy the typical person's weekend leisure activities.

As the physical season winds down and Fall approaches, there is a perception that gamers have more time to play games, and that more than anything else is behind the designation of September as the star for the New Gaming Year.

Games that actually completed the development process in the first Quarter of the previous year have sat on the figurative shelves waiting for the new gaming year to begin so that they could make their way into the traditional starting point and, with luck and judgement of their merits, hopefully find there way into gamer hands, be the subject of much buzz, and claw their way through the cadre that makes up the short list for the competition for the title of Game of the Year.

Around mid-October the pre-release PR process begins for the games that have been held back for release with an eye on the Christmas shopping season emerge from their warm and safe cocoons, and the emphasis in presentation is largely geared towards appealing to the people who buy presents each Christmas (parents, grand parents, that sort of consumer) whose interest is largely limited towards comprehension of the potential value of a game as a gift -- and that translate roughly to convincing them that Junior or Sissy will really like this game!

Throughout this first sub-season there are sprinkled a handful of AAA titles that are cross-marketed to obtain the attention of the Xmas crowd (who we just discussed) and the gamers themselves, who naturally use a completely different criteria for judging the advisability of purchasing a game and, subsequently, receive a very different focus and pitch from the PR's.

That presents the basic picture for the first Sub-Season of the New Gaming Year and Season.

The Prime Gaming Season
January 01 thru May 31

This is the core of the gaming year -- and it is during this period that the major titles are released, as well as the games that the studios expect you to spend most of the Summer playing. Naturally the games that are targeted for release during the Prime Sub-Season tend to consist of the more complex and deeper (think large) games, and those that have a bigger-than-average online side to them.

The entire focus of PR efforts during this period is directed at gamers, not parents or grand parents, so there is a much more enthusiastic approach to the process.

These five months tend to be the period in which the major share of profits are obtained for the game studios and publishers, and it is during this period that most of the gamer poling takes place that will translate into DLC expansions in the next Game Year.

The Summer Doldrums
June 01 thru August 31

That unfortunate period in each year in which, typically, annual personal holidays take place and during which the majority of gamers have less time and pay less attention to gaming because there are a lot of other things that they do.

The less that is said about these three months the better.

Most gamers spend the Summer Doldrums catching up on the games that they own that they never finished for whatever reason.

Interrupt Driven
Web definitions:
Used to describe someone who moves through the a workday responding
to a series of interruptions rather than the work goals originally set...

So welcome to the New Gaming Year!

As we progress into the hot-phase of the Holiday Sub-Season, you will be happy to learn that the 2011/2012 Gaming Year is shaping up to be a good one!

Here is what you can enjoy now, and what you have to look forward to for the 2011 Holiday Sub-Season:

  • Warhammer 40,000: Space Marines (6 Sept) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
  • Dead Island (9 Sept) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
  • NHL 12 (13 Sept) PS3 / Xbox 360
  • Resident Evil 4 HD (20 Sept) PS3 / Xbox 360
  • F1 (23 Sept) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
  • FIFA 12 (27 Sept) PC / PS2 / PS3 / PSP / Xbox 360 / Wii
  • Resident Evil Code: Veronica X HD (27 Sept) PS3 / Xbox 360
  • NBA 2K12 (04 Oct) PC / PS2 / PS3 / PSP / Xbox 360 / Wii
  • RAGE (04 Oct) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
  • Dead Rising 2: Off the Record (11 Oct) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
  • PES 2012 (14 Oct) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
  • Spider Man: Edge of Time (14 Sept) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
  • X-Men Destiny (14 Sept) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
  • The Sims 3: Pets (18 Oct) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
  • Batman: Arkham City (Oct 20) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
  • Battlefield 3 (Oct) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
  • NCIS (Oct 31) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
  • Puss in Boots (01 Nov) PS3 / Xbox 360 / Wii
  • Call of Duty: MW3 (08 Nov) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (11 Nov) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
  • Assassins Creed: Revelations (15 Nov) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
  • Saints Row: The Third (15 Nov) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
  • LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 - 7 (18 Nov) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360 / Wii
  • Need for Speed: The Run (18 Nov) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
  • WWE '12 (22 Nov) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
  • The Lord of the Rings: War in the North (25 Nov) PC /PS3 / Xbox 360
There are more of course, but the above is the highlight of the AAA titles that are set to rock your New Gaming Year.

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