Video games jostling for supremacy on the same day is nothing new — there’s been a fair few of them already this year and enough recently we even had to write up on the more recent ones from sheer indulgence of this year’s output. For as long as there’s been those crossing-off days on calendars in anticipation for that one game coming up, so too its rival titles inevitably stand alongside. Merely to lay claim to the now-diminishing title of selling the most units that particular week…or perhaps persuade a more on-the-fence consumer to invest their hard-earned cash in an alternate product…their product.
Perhaps one of the low-key if still amusing take-aways from this year’s E3 was the retrospective “h-hang on!” double-take many people undoubtedly made upon realizing that three of the year’s biggest releases, Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Super Mario Odyssey and Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus…all released on the same day, Friday October 27. Three AAA titles from three of the most prominent and active publishers in the industry at the moment. And while we’ve had plenty of days where AAA and AA face-off or a handful of smaller but peculiarly intriguing titles compete against remakes or remasters of old, established favorites, it’s been a while since three iconic IPs have faced off in such a high-stakes fashion. A series having taken a year off to [possibly] rethink its existential place in the gaming World; an industry staple that has recently captured both our imagination as much our ears; a first-person shooter aiming to be brash, bonkers and brilliant all at once.
While these three games represent the dilemma as much the diversity in video game entertainment, in waiting for October 27 to stroll on by, we’ve been met with a lot less of a troublesome impatience that regularly sours the build-up towards the Q4 surge of releases. After all, for anyone keeping significant tabs on the indie scene, the end of September/early October period has delivered us quite a steady stream of smaller titles carving surprisingly grand endeavors and to some, just maybe involving themselves in a second more cluttered clash of sorts amidst end-of-year lists. SteamWorld Dig 2, Golf Story, Cuphead, A Hat in Time; whether it’s scouting the Switch eShop for the next hidden gem (and perhaps dark horse of 2017) or keeping tabs of developers humbly making small but critical announcements, you’ll likely agree that the past few weeks have been a bit of a “pretty good” time. An easier means, to some, in distracting one’s self from that date.
So much of a good time in fact that on a personal level, the impending end of October has found itself gracefully pushed back into one’s priorities as of late. And while I’ve been more than happy taking my sweet, sweet time with these games (merrily so I might add), it’s only recently that it struck me that the end of October was nearly upon it: “oh right…October 27.” Granted, I often adapt a media black-out stance when it comes to that usual plethora of brief promotional videos that come through on press releases — something which, to this day, I still don’t know why companies consider this a good idea — so as to squeeze those last few drops of “hype” in any way they can. Regardless of what people are saying about a game’s marketing on social media or the devil inside coaxing me into reading up on the leaks to a game that are no doubt online and readily available to scout through. Thus, while my anticipation is simmered at present to but a humble and speculative wonder of who will come out on top — whether it’s here in the UK, the US, anywhere really — there’s one line of thinking that I think sums up the past couple of month’s activity: “can October 27 still live up to expectation?”
I mean this in a collective sense of course; I’m sure these games are going to not just sell, but end up being a whole load of fun to play and pick apart. Well, two of them at least — I’ll give you a moment to speculate which odd one I’m referring to. It does seem however like this unprecedented recalibration is but a charming side-effect of video game release calendars nowadays and the immediacy and effectiveness with which press releases and [likely] social media can topple one’s previously-tailored hierarchy. Just like how an over-saturation of marketing can make me step back from an upcoming game, it matters not whether you announce a firm release date six months or six days beforehand, the insistent fixation of the general gaming community — not to mention the lightning-fast rate information is shared across the web — means that game schedules can be a lot more flexible without damaging the potential return developers/publishers make when release day finally arrives.
I sort of like this new-fangled unpredictability; how a smaller game with a vague release window can suddenly pull a “and it’s out in seven days!” forewarning and give that upcoming roster of titles a bit more dynamism and perspective. Or even if already set in stone, can of course give us something to look forward to in the summer, but manage to stride close enough to a given year’s fourth and final quarter, the contrast between developers and studios is purely economically. Small studios vs big studios; crowd-funded passion-projects competing against tens of millions of corporate dollars. All three of October 27’s games might well be of the same stature, but rather than coming to this with a clean plate, my mind remains fixed on how well the build-up has been in the light of what’s been made available beforehand.
Where once we saw year after year of summer droughts, wherein anticipated games were usually confined to five of a possible twelve months — February, March, April, October, November in most cases — the rise of independant developers, not to mention the self-fulfilling prophecy-like garnering that early year and summer periods have left open, has not only given us a more steadier stream of content to invest in (and hopefully enjoy), but has raised, for me at least, a fascinating dilemma as to whether these notable dates can still live up to the enormity their stature and industry status would lead you to perceive. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t maintained some flickering delight in looking forward to an October-December “surge” of sorts. Problematic it might be for some and understandably frustrating that all these games are jostling for focus in such (in the context of a whole year) a short amount of space, but wouldn’t that mean that the supposed best would have to really shine bright to outperform their rivals?
Whether it’s a more sadistic tainting of my personality or simply an enthusiastic one, the opening salvo of fall/holiday releases this year will come with an added observational interest. And I’m not just talking about: “can Mario/Nintendo outperform the return of Assassin’s Creed and a new Wolfenstein?” Admittedly there will be that quaint and lingering idea that one or maybe all three of these games could have spaced themselves out a bit. That to cram three big games into one day does seem a little odd for a consumer’s stand-point. But whether you yourself give any shred of a damn about sales figures or chart positions or anything remotely business-minded in this industry, you can at least admit that the still-surprising, still-perplexing nature of video game calendars still manages to add some much-needed spice to proceedings.
One born from an ever-expanding, increasingly-diverse industry; one which will round off — regardless of the outcome — a year that has perhaps been unlike any other in a long time. It’s this reason why such a moment, one day housing three big releases, is one I’ll be watching with beady eyes. A year of video games has, finally, started to feel exactly that in recent times and just maybe, the latter periods have lost a little of their eager drive, or maybe they haven’t. There’s only one aspect that can possibly quench our thirst; the time has finally come and with all manner of speculative discussion just about wrapping up on what might be the year’s most densely-packed day yet, it’s up to you to prove that all the talk, hype, marketing and many a crossed-off days were warranted. If all else fails, well you can rest easy in the knowledge that these past few weeks’ transition from a surge of indie titles to a surge of AAA titles could itself spark a few more debates on the nature of release schedules.