BLACK AND BLUE
Have you ever heard something being described as being like the “Black Hole of Calcutta”? It’s a phrase, that while old, is still used to describe things disappearing without a trace. The origins of the term are not racist as you may suspect, but instead reference a war atrocity. In 1756, Siraj ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal, angry at the way that the East India Trading Company (these guys are almost as perennially villainous as bloody Nazis) was interfering with internal affairs and threatened Bengali independence, ordered the capture of Fort William, a British fort used to protect East India Company trade. After the battle, the captured soldiers, both British and Anglo-Indian were imprisoned in the only cell at Fort William. 146 men were crammed into an area designed to accommodate only a handful. By the next day 123 of the soldiers had died from suffocation or heat exhaustion.
“Nice, if somewhat grim history lesson”, I hear you say, but as far as I can see the games industry is heading closer and closer to the Black Hole of Calcutta. Every year more and more games are released and especially towards the Christmas period, many games are rushed to fit into that all important holiday window in an attempt to recoup costs. Trying to cram so many titles into a market segment that can’t handle them all is going to leave some dead, potential revenue streams for developers being suffocated by the sheer mass of competing IPs, and others will die because the release has been rushed to fit the window, leaving developers to rush to patch out game killing bugs and fend off angry gamers.
What’s most frustrating about this is that the whole holiday seasonal release schedule is nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy. Things sell around Christmas because things are released around Christmas. Release a great game at any time and it will sell - the ubiquity of gaming all but guarantees that now, but due to a mixture of habit and a fixation on the idea of seasonal buying habits we’re stuck with the end of year rush. There are some companies that are delaying their releases to January, but until the spread is even across the year, the glut seems to cause more harm than good to developers. As a brief, tangentially related aside, we were planning on running a PUBG cover this month, but nailing down Brendan Greene, especially now he’s with BlueHole (see - tenuous tangential relation), is proving to be something of a challenge. Hopefully next issue.