Despite gamers often lamenting that there are "too many" good games coming out during the fourth quarter holiday period -- more than their wallets can handle -- they still appear to be finding ways to spend money during the period.
According to Electronic Entertainment Design and Research analyst Jesse Divnich, 43 percent of 2008's video game titles released in the fourth quarter.
Fourth quarter sales accounted for 45 percent of total annual sales, indicating that, in aggregate, the amount of titles released during Q4 supports quarterly sales proportions.
Divnich said, "The thoughts on releasing more games in Q4 seem to run analogous to expanding a sports stadium from holding 20,000 fans to 35,000 fans - if you can fill the seats, then the expansion is justified."
But he added, "This data does not suggest causation and there is no one-to-one correlation between release quantities and sales by quarter."
"Instead, the data suggests that other factors such as quality scores, variety of releases, marketing, and economical factors play a role in shaping quarterly sales for the industry."
The graph below shows the correlation between game releases and sales for prior years, as provided by EEDAR. Note that in every quarter, there is a close correlation between the number of titles released and the proportionate amount of sales:
Divnich also said that, going by game review score averages, there wasn't a great fluctuation of the percentage of 85 percent-plus releases from quarter to quarter, as seen below.
The EEDAR analyst explained: "The only significant change [in the holiday quarter] occurs with a decrease in “good” scoring titles (70 – 84) and an increase in those of poor quality (54 and below)."
(This appears to be due to a larger number of 'casual' DS and Wii games -- which can often provide enjoyment to consumers but don't necessarily score so well in conventional game reviews -- launching in the holiday quarter.)
Concluding his analysis, Divnich noted: "The question on whether our industry is overloading the holiday quarter does not have a simple answer. On one hand, looking from a macro-view, the amount of releases rise proportionally to the amount of sales generated; the same for high quality scoring titles."
"On the other hand, a core gamer, whose discretionary gaming budget is likely consistent across the entire year, would have to increase their budget by over 200% in the holiday quarter to keep up with the high influx of high quality releases."
"Is it more beneficial, financially, to release an 85 or higher quality title in the off-season or the holiday season? Again, the answer varies depending on the game, genre, and, of course, the marketing budget."
"On average, however, games released in the holiday season sell about 15-20% more than higher quality games released off-season, which is likely why despite the core community's complaints, publishers continue to overload the holiday quarter with their best releases."