For as long as we can remember, the gaming industry was on par with the movie industry. You had a couple entertaining games here and there throughout the first nine months of the year, but when October hit, consumers would be bombarded with great game after great game. Just looking at the past winners of game of the year fromt he VGA’s/The Game Awards, Only three games from 2003 to 2014 were fully released before August the years they were released which were Resident Evil 4 in 2005, Elder Scrolls: Oblivion the following year, and Red Dead Redemption in 2010. Those three are all incredible games, there is not doubt about that, but although they were successful, developers continued to keep it play it safe and release there games during the holidays. It makes perfect sense, Christmas is the season of giving, and what do so many kids love? Video games.
But why should the dedicated gamers that are always looking for fun experiences year round be left in the cold during the first half of the year? For years, people would have to sit the the first 4-5 months of the year continuing to play the most recent Call of Duty, or playing through Fallout 3 or Skyrim for the 18th time because there was barely anything being released in those early months. Then all of a sudden, something changed.
This game called The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt came out in May of 2015 and it was one of the most impressive feats in video games. The world design and scale were incredible, voice acting and scriptwriting was well done, the story was engaging and left you wanting more, and there was this little game called Gwent that won the hearts of millions. The Witcher raised the bar for what an open world RPG, a true masterpiece, and pretty much the unanimous game of the year of 2015. Not only that, the game sold four million copies in its first two weeks, in the middle of May. This seemed to spark a change in some developers thinking.
Batman: Arkham Knight was released a few weeks after The Witcher and sold even faster than the Witcher did and was also an outstanding game that was game of the year quality. The following year, 2016, Street Fighter V, XCOM 2, Firewatch, and Far Cry Primal, all came out in February alone and were outstanding games that sold well (Firewatch being nominated for multiple Game Awards). In March of that year, The Division became the fastest selling new franchise in the history of games. Granted, a lot of people were not impressed with The Division after a couple weeks, but the point being here is that games were selling well in the first half of the year.
Then along came the beautiful game known as Overwatch. Released in May of last year, Overwatch is being played by over 25 million people, and is, in my opinion, the most polished first person shooter to ever hit the market. Not only that, it won The Game Awards game of the year honors. So in back to back years now, we have had a game of the year winner released in May and not during the holiday season.
Moving to this year, 2017, we have been spoiled by a plethora of outstanding games in just the first two months of the year with more to come here in March. Resident Evil VII has received high praise from many as a return to form for the franchise and shipped 3 million units in just its first two weeks. Nioh has been the biggest suprise thus far in 2017 with an aggregate score of 87/100 on Metacritic and over 1 million units shipped in its first two weeks. Then finally we have recently released Horizon Zero Dawn. The game, like The Witcher, is a true masterpiece of a game all around. From visuals to gameplay and everything in between, Horizon Zero Dawn is safely a contender for game of the year this year (currently an 88/100 on Metacritic) and it is only March.
Then looking toward the rest of this month we have Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild which is already the best reviewed game of the year with 98/100 out of over 50 reviews. Not to mention Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Mass Effect: Andromeda which are still to come later this month.
To sum this whole thing up, The Witcher’s success in 2015 helped to give developers confidence in releasing games in the earlier parts of the year. Now, gamers are being rewarded with a slew of incredible, game of the year caliber games early in the year instead of waiting ten months to see the next big thing in games.