In the midst of the Summer Doldrums the Gaming Economy Surges Forward

While the financial state of the games industry is not usually the sort of information that we write about here at GU, the recent announcement by international market research firm Newzoo ( that estimates of Turkish consumer spending on video games will be between $400 and $500 million in 2012 is the sort of information that gets us curious about the state of the gaming economy in the world.

According to the recent report based upon research and analysis by Newzoo, Turkey has an active consumer gaming base of some 30-million gamers, ranging in age from 16 to 50, that serves as the baseline for statistical evaluation, but of even more interest is the fact that an estimated 72% of consumers from all categories in the country -- roughly 21.8 million -- actually play games on a regular basis. If you are familiar with the average statistics for gamers you will likely be aware that this number is marginally higher than the same figures for Western countries.

Further examination of the numbers revealed by the research indicates that only 52% of those same consumers actually spend money on games -- a figure that is lower than that of Europe and the US, and which may be explained by the disproportionately higher interest in freemium gaming and free-to-play MMO games in the region. The statistics are not in error -- Newzoo co-operated with local Seti Media in order to validate the results -- and additional surveys support the notion that a higher participation level in social networking platforms along with the free, free-to-play, and freemium games found on them, is largely the cause of the statistical anomaly.

The Summer Doldrums

Recent figures from research firm NPD reveals that video game sales for the month of May 2012 have decreased nearly 28% -- to $516.6 million -- from the comparable previous-year period, but far from indicating that the games industry has finally succumbed to the adverse economic trends that have been impacting almost every other sector within the entertainment industry, the slump in sales can be directly attributed to the decline in new title releases that traditionally marks the beginning of what industry insiders refer to as The Summer Doldrums -- the period from mid-May extending through mid-September each year during which very few new mainstream game titles are released.

To put this in perspective and help with understanding the negative impact that the Summer Doldrums have each year, the figures for consumer spending on social games, digital downloads, and used and rented games for April weigh-in at $1.17 billion, which is an increase from the roughly $1 billion total spent in April 2012, and solid evidence that games industry continues its strong forward momentum.

As gamers enter into the Summer Doldrums a handful of titles which were released just prior to the beginning of Summer are thought to be ideally placed to take gamers through the period during which no new titles will be released to meet their needs, with games like Diablo III, 2K's Max Payne 3, and Ubisoft's Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier picking up the slack, while efforts by gaming powerhouse Microsoft -- and specifically its online gaming service, Xbox LIVE -- and the well-established series of sales campaigns typified by its annual Summer of Arcade program that kicks off in earnest in July, are set to help gamers get through the Summer Doldrums as painlessly as possible.

The Wreckateer Feature Demo at Microsoft's Pre-E3 2012 Press Briefing

"The inclusion of titles like Wreckateer in Microsoft's Pre-E3 Press Briefing was intended to help build excitement for the Summer of Arcade program," says Zach Wilson, a PR representative whose clients include Indy games studios who hope that the Summer Doldrums will be just the ticket to bring their games to the attention of gamers as they finish the mainstream titles that they bought just before the Doldrums hit.

"The inclusion of iconic remakes like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, immersive games like Deadlight and 5th Cell's Hybrid, and perhaps the most anticipated title in the series, the side-scrolling action-RPG Dust: An Elysian Tail really give gamers a lot to look forward to during a period that traditionally, let's face it, in the past meant replaying games you already beat!"

The Games of Summer?

A random sampling of gamers attending this year's E3 undertaken as part of an informal survey at events like the invitation-only Gree3 bash at Club Nokia, Hawken's do at the Luxe, and the EVE Gathering at The Standard, reveals a rather narrow plan for getting through the Summer Doldrums that on its face makes a lot of sense.

As we quizzed gamers about their summer survival plans, a surprisingly consistent plan emerged in which specific titles seemed to crop up again and again -- but in simple terms most of the gamers surveyed indicated that they had prepared for the Summer Doldrums by not playing specific games that they purchased earlier in the year, so that they had something untapped to enjoy during the gaming drouth of summer.

A casual examination of the games released in the months leading up to June 2012 shows that this year there was something of a bumper crop of games to choose from, making it a lot easier to set aside titles in preparation for the Summer. The first quarter of 2012 saw the release of a mixture of arcade and traditional games among which, specifically mentioned as being set aside for play this summer, includes: Alan Wake's American Nightmare, Amy, Final Fantasy XIII-2, Gotham City Imposters, I am Alive, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Lollipop Chainsaw, Mass Effect 3, Microsoft Flight, Minecraft, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, Risen 2, Soulcalibur V, SSX, The Darkness II, and Tropico 4.

In addition to games already released and squirreled away for later play there are a number of titles whose upcoming release is hoped to augment those already set aside, including: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Darksiders II, Far Cry 3, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2, Sleeping Dogs, and Transformers: Fall of Cybertron that factored into plans as a sort emergency relief if the insurance titles already set aside proved incapable of lasting out the entire summer.

"You know it's funny," observed Mark Lee, attending E3 as part of his role as a buyer for a major North American retailer. "In previous years my plan was to play games from the past that I never had the chance to play, you know, sit down and go through the catalog for GameFly and pick out games that were in the Top Ten from previous years, but I have mostly played all of those games, so this year I have to do things a little different."

"The cool thing is that the bad economy never really effected gaming," says Calvin Cooper, a freelance writer from Houston, Texas, who covers games for a handful of weekly newspapers. "At this point my plan is to start hitting my local GameStops to see what is in the used game discount bin -- you would be surprised at how many great games you can get from that, all under $10 each, and many of which I never had the time to play! That is the really cool thing about this time of year," he points out. "During the rest of the year we (game reviewers) have to play the games we are assigned; we really have no control over what titles we end up playing. But for a few months each year in the summer we can indulge ourselves and play the games that we want to play. Hell, I look forward to the Summer Doldrums!"

The E3 2008 Fallout III Trailer - If you somehow missed playing Fallout III back in the day, here is a game that can easily take you through most of the summer!

A List of Top Ten Games from Year's Past

Just in case you are having trouble coming up with a list of potential games to get yourself through the Doldrums of Summer your GU reporters have sat down in our bullpen and come up with a list of suggestions, all of which are not only good games that are worth playing, but include titles you should be able to get very cheap, since we have seen them in the discount bins at our local game stores as well as at Walmart and Best Buy...

-- Assassin's Creed

-- Assassin's Creed II

-- Batman: Arkham Asylum

-- Battlefield: Bad Company 2

-- BioShock

-- Call of Duty 4

-- Call of Duty: Black Ops

-- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II

-- Crackdown II (digital download)

-- Dead Space

-- Devil May Cry 3

-- The Elder Scrolls Oblivion

-- Fallout III

-- Gears of War

-- Gears of War II

-- God of War 3

-- Grand Theft Auto IV

-- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

-- Halo Reach

-- Hitman: Blood Money

-- Left 4 Dead 2

-- LittleBigPlanet

-- Mass Effect

-- Mass Effect 2

-- Metal Gear Solid 4

-- Naughty Bear

-- Need for Speed Underground

-- The Orange Box

-- Raw VS Smackdown

-- Red Dead Redemption

-- Resistance II

-- Splinter Cell: Double Agent

-- Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter

-- True Crime: Street of New York

-- Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Obviously chances are good that you have played the bulk of the games in the list above, but the whole point here is that if there are games on the list that you have not played, you now have a golden arrow pointing you to titles that can easily get you through a month at a go, and that are worth playing in their own right. Glad we could help!