The end of May and the start of June is a weird time for a lot of gamers around the world, including myself. Usually the last two weeks of May and the first two weeks of June see the release of the last one, or two, big game(s) of the spring, and by extension, the summer. This year those big games were Watch_Dogs on the 27th of May, and Mario Kart 8 on the 30th. Last year the game in question was the incredible The Last of Us on June 14th. And in 2012 it was Max Payne 3 on May 15th, and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier on the 22nd. These are generally the last quality big budget games released until near the end of August. As such, this roughly two month (and some change) period of time has been dubbed the “summer drought” for video games. In apparent opposition to the goings on of the movie industry, who is known for their “tentpole” summer blockbusters, mid-June to mid-August is a near complete and total void for big game releases. Of course this isn’t to say no games come out over the summer, but there are very, very few major releases. In fact, I would argue the last AAA high profile, make-the-news kind of game to release over these months came all the way back in 2010 when StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty for the PC released on July 27th. More often than not the summer months are used by some independent devs to release fun and interesting projects that won’t get overshadowed by major releases, like Bastion and Limbo, and as a dumping ground for the shite in a publisher’s lineup, much in the same way movie studios use January, and February.
So what is the bright side to this “drought”? Why do I think it’s a good thing few noteworthy games release during this time period? Simply put, it allows me to catch up. The gaming industry revolves around the fall-to-holiday season (plus a little spring). September through December is always, every year without fail, responsible for an glut of great, and massively time consuming titles from the biggest publishers in the industry. Take 2011 for instance: starting from August 23rd with the release of the fantastic Deus Ex: Human Revolution (a 30+ hour game), 18+ other massive AAA games came out during that period of time through December. Including but not limited too: Dead Island and Resistance 3 on September 6th (DI: 25+ hrs., R3: 12+ hrs. + multiplayer), Gears of War 3 on September 20th (10+ hr. campaign, and dozens of hours of multiplayer), Dark Souls and Rage on October 4th (DS: 30+ hrs., Rage: 20+ hrs.), Forza Motorsport 4 on October 11th (potentially 60-70+ hrs.), Batman: Arkham City on October 18th (15+ hrs.), Battlefield 3 on October 25th (I had 100+ hrs in the multiplayer alone). And these are just some of the games from August to October of that year. Add Deus Ex back into that list, and those nine games alone make up a minimum of over 205 hours of game time, multiplayer not included. With multiplayer we’re looking at hundreds upon hundreds of hours in just those nine weeks.
Games of 2011, Aug. to Oct. in order left to right– Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Dead Island, Resistance 3, Gears of War 3, Dark Souls, Rage, Forza Motorsport 4, Batman: Arkham City, and Battlefield 3.
However, the really crazy part comes next during November. Eight+ more massive games came out over that four week span including (but not limited too) Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception on November 1st (20+ hrs. + multiplayer), Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 on November 8th (CoD: I had 10 hrs in the campaign and 70+ in the multi) The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim on November 11th, arguably the biggest game of the year and potential time sink worth hundreds of hours (I put up 60+ on 360 and another 30+ on PC and completed less than 40% of the game), Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, and Saint’s Row: The Third on November 15th (AC: 30+ hrs, Halo: 12+ hrs + multi, SR: 25+ hrs.), Minecraft on November 18th (unlimited playtime), and finally The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword on November 20th (25+ hrs.). OK, so if you’ve been keeping score; the rough minimum amount of time to complete all those games based on my incredibly non-scientific calculations comes to a crazy 210-ish hours of play time on a four week time span, which, once again does not include multiplayer which could bring that number up by several hundred. So if you wanted to play all those major releases, yet stick to just single player, you would be looking at nearly 450 hours of gaming over a roughly 13 week span, which, by the way, only has about 2,200 hours in it. So remember, no multiplayer, and you’d still be spending nearly a fifth of your life gaming, or about 100 hours less than an average person would sleep over that same period. Pretty insane, huh? And all of this still doesn’t include December’s biggest release, the massive MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic which is another potential time sink worth hundreds, if not thousands of hours to certain players. To make matters worse, if you wanted to purchase all those games over the past three or so months on their release dates, you’d be looking at nearly $1,200 in spending, at $60 a game. A ludicrous number, even for someone who enjoys games as much as I do.
Games of 2011, Nov. to Dec. in order left to right– Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Saint’s Row: The Third, Minecraft, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Star Wars: The Old Republic.
So I think you can see where I’m going with this now. Those empty summer months are a godsend to hardcore gamers who need to complete their backlog before the next rash of fall releases comes out. Spring too is a problem, as it always holds big games as well. 2012 for me, held the biggest release of the entire year in March, Mass Effect 3, which ate up nearly 100 hours just in my play-throughs, and another 60+ in the top notch co-op multiplayer. From fall 2011 through spring 2012 I learned a valuable lesson; complete every game you buy before buying a new one. During the fall of 2011 I was unable to make the most of games I had bought like Deus Ex, Forza, Batman, Uncharted, Skyrim, Assassin’s Creed, and The Old Republic. These were all games I had to finish later in 2012. In fact I didn’t beat Batman and Skyrim until summer, and I still haven’t completed Deus Ex, or Assassin’s Creed, or Star Wars. Uncharted 3 fell all the way back until the week before the release of the PS4 for me, back in the first week of November 2013, two full years after it first released.
The goal I have now is to never keep a major game that I really, really want to play on my backlog for that long ever again (my horrible mismanagement of Steam notwithstanding). That’s what summer’s are fantastic for, since I have a relatively small amount of time to play games over the fall, I can finish those I want to play but have had yet to get too during June, July, and August. And if I get done early, like this year? That allows me to go way back and do another play-through of say ME3, play the DLC for BioShock: Infinite, or try a game I might have skipped over like the gorgeous Transistor, and even purchase and play through a remastered edition of 2013’s best game, The Last of Us on PS4. I hope other gamer’s utilize Summer this way as well, rather than playing 90 more hours of Call of Duty let these months be a time of new experiences. For me, summer gives my video game hobby a time to rest, rejuvenate, and try something new, especially this year, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.