After pouring over video game releases dating back to the turn of century, I’ve come to the following conclusion: The idea of a “summer video game drought” ‘tis but a myth!
Look through history yourself; you might be as surprised by the number of summer games as I was. I was even more surprised by the number of “classic games” released in the summer months. Going back to 2000 you’ll see a number of different great games in the summer season. We’ve seen Metal Gears, and Deus Ex-es. We’ve seen Diablos, Dooms, Max Paynes and Witchers. We’ve seen Forzas, Tekkens and Soul Calibers, We’ve seen Elder Scrolls, Mario Karts, Pokémon, Mario Tennis and Splatoons. Those are just main entries, that’s not even mentioning the countless expansions and DLCs.
I started in 2000 in an effort to narrow the scope. Summer classics can be found dating all the way back to the July release of Dragon’s Layer in 1984.
Before I go much further I’d like to admit to some concessions. First off, I’ve included the month of May. I consider it to be the kick off to summer. Next, if you’re on a single console, things would obviously appear to be a bit different. My judgement is based across multiple genres and on every console. Just because it’s dry in your area, doesn’t mean it’s not storming down the river. Finally, I’m sure there were games that were released that don’t match your particular taste, and therefore “don’t count.”
One notable era is 2005-2007. A series of major events occurred that I think changed the way gamers are able to access games. Late 2005 Microsoft released the 360, and Steam began selling third-party software. One year later, in 2006, Sony released the PS3. These new consoles were built with the idea of internet firmly in mind. These three platform holders kicked off new storefronts allowing smaller games from smaller development teams. I think these growing pains caused a very rough year in terms of summer games for the summer of 2006. It was sparse, but not dry. We still saw Hitman Blood Money, Prey, Dead Rising, Half Life 2 Episode 1, Dirge of Cerberus, quite a few PSP games and New Super Mario Bros. There were also a lot of licensed PS2 games.
In the summer of 2008, Microsoft kicked off the “Summer of Arcade.” They promoted gems like Braid, Trials HD, Shadow Complex, Limbo and Bastion. Promotions like these was a blow to summer gaming drought and a boon to smaller arcade games in general. This gave smaller games visibility and credibility in an increasingly crowded market.
One more sparse year that I remember in particular was 2009. I remember it was the year before Red Dead Redemption. I was having a very rough go at life. Firings, lay-offs, “evictions”, breakups, foreclosures, and deaths had plagued my family and friends throughout 2008-2009. It was a very hard couple of years in my life, but it was a great time for video games, that is, until the summer of 2009. I remember I passed on every one of the summer games that year as I pieced my life back together. I remember getting the key to city in GTA IV, taming the wasteland in Fallout 3, and dominating the world in Civilization Revolutions. I was easily able to ride out the summer until Borderlands released that fall. Eventually
I swung back later for Infamous and The Sims 3. Other options included games like Prototype, Red Faction: Guerrilla, The Conduit, Ghost Busters, Fat Princess, and quite a few Rock Bands / Guitar Hero Expansions, that could hold you over from the crowded 2008 to the fall of 2009.
One more notable event, and possibly the end of the summer drought saga, was the success of Red Dead Redemption in May of 2010. Personally, I think it may have changed publisher’s idea of how successful summer games could be. Since it’s release seven years ago, I don’t think we’ve seen a dry summer. Since it’s release we’ve saw LA Noire, Overwatch, Arkham Knight, Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3ds, Dragons Dogma, Last of Us, Dota 2, Pokémon GO, PT and many more.
I’ve read several of TAY’s theme week articles and comments, I can see many of you have already discovered my final point. These days more and more great games are being released throughout the year. Chances are you’ve skipped one game to play another. Chances are you have bought games, or have been given games, that you haven’t even touched. What I’m getting to, is that chances are you have a backlog of some kind. I know that digging into the ‘ol backlog runs counter to what gamers want. I know it’s not the “sexy” answer to a drought. I know all about the hunger for “new.” But the fact remains, that chances are you have games to play.
One more minor point I should probably make is that there are a growing number of f2p games that are at your disposal. You can grind your summer away for free*!
I’ll leave you with the wise words of Kotaku’s Leo Wichtowski.
*Free to play games are not always entirely free to play.