If you're anything like me, you're having some trouble getting around to playing some of the biggest video game titles of the year. This isn't because I'm too busy to play, but rather because there's just so many quality releases so soon into 2010. What a problem to have, right?
For some reason I've never fully understood, video game publishers have often held back their greatest titles for release after the holidays. The conventional wisdom is that there is less competition, since most of the big tentpole releases try to make into the stores by Christmas.
That's not the case this year, however. In the first 40 days of the year we've gotten Bayonetta, Army of Two: The 40th Day, Dark Void, Mass Effect 2, and just last Tuesday, BioShock 2 and Dante's Inferno. Those last two are an especially tender spot, since I've been waiting so long for them to come out. Too bad I'm still busy fighting for the lost in ME2.
The last two years haven't been slouches. The first two months of 2009 saw decent stuff like Skate 2, Afro Samurai and House of the Dead: Overkill mixed in among big-name titles F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, Killzone 2 and Street Fighter IV. Even 2008, which was a light year, brought us Sins of a Solar Empire, Professor Layton and the Curious Village and Devil May Cry 4, all of which have devout fans. You probably forgot all those came out in Januarys and Februarys.
This has been a trend since way back when I was a little geek in the year 1990, when Nintendo released Super Mario Bros. 3 on Feb. 12. I distinctly remember it being such a big deal that Fred Savage even starred in a movie called The Wizard specifically created to shill the thing.
And make no mistake, even in a crowded field like this first quarter, sales can be brisk. Take Darksiders, which showed up Jan. 5 and sold 171,000 copies in January (good for 10th place on the sales charts). That's not too bad for a new IP these days, despite analysts crowing about what a disappointment it was.
"The release date actually worked to our advantage," THQ vice president Danny Bilson told IndustryGamers.com. "It tied to our marketing messaging around the apocalypse happening at the start of the new year. We are the first major AAA release of 2010 and have come out the gates very strong."
That's really putting a spin on things. NPD also says in its January findings that software sales dropped 21 percent over January 2009. A lack of mad money probably bolstered previously released titles, which dominated the chart — Wii Fit Plus, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Mario Kart Wii and Wii Sports Resort took most of the slots. And while the excellent Mass Effect 2 — released on Jan. 26 — managed to push through 572,100 copies in the mere six days it was for sale in January, the game that beat it for the top spot in January was New Super Mario Bros. Wii, which came out on Nov. 15 of last year, with 656,700 copies sold.
So much for there not being any competition after the holidays.
Joshua Gillin writes about video games and entertainment news for tbt*. Feel free to challenge his opinions at firstname.lastname@example.org.