View Full Version : Seasonal variations
02-05-2003, 10:30 PM
I would imagine autumn/winter would bring in more sales that spring/summer, mainly due to the fact that more people will be spending more time indoors. But just how big is the divide between the seasons when it comes to sales figures? Is there a significant drop during the summer months?
02-06-2003, 05:11 AM
I know some developers talk about the "summer slowdown," but the summer months are usually the best of the year for us. August was our best month last year. It could be that people have more time off during the summer. We often notice a drop in sales in September that gradually picks up again going into the holidays.
02-06-2003, 05:41 AM
Well, can anyone say Summer vacation ? :)
At this time, most 15-25 years old dont have school or university, which leaves a lot more time for game playing. Not sure if this is a direct result in sales or not, but i used to go mad with games during summer vacation (who wants beaches when you have sim city classic ? :))
02-06-2003, 05:55 AM
I can say for certain that nobody wants to spend much time outside in the heat of summer in Texas, which is around the August-September timeframe. Excruciating heat and humidity, plus the comfort of central air, make being outside a non-plus. When outdoor activities are planned, you can be pretty sure there's a pool nearby.
Although I have rarely been up to the northern latitudes during the dead of winter, I'm guessing it's much the same.
Has anybody ever experimented with directed marketing during those "cabin fever" months? I'd be interested to know if you can garner a good increase in sales by focusing on regional hits -- say banner ads on local sites or such.
What techniques did you use? How successful was your campaign?
02-06-2003, 09:45 AM
Steve, I always thought that December (Christmas in the USA, and also a lot of other celebrations in Europe) was the "hot item" for selling games, that it's also one important deadline to finish games before Christmas ?
Although, ofcourse a summer-holiday seems to be a logical period as well.
02-06-2003, 09:54 AM
Christmas is huge for retail games -- many retail publishers make 25% of their annual revenue just in December. Christmas is also a big season for some indie developers who sell games that make popular gifts. It's a fairly good season for us, but the gift-giving aspect hasn't been as strong for us as for certain other developers. We've pushed the gift aspect in past years, and we'll probably experiment with it more in future years, but the results seem to vary tremendously from developer to developer.
02-06-2003, 11:52 AM
Here's an article I started back in 2001, but never finished and so never released. I hope it's helpful in some way... :)
The Online Game Calendar
This short article is to give you a perspective of the play cycles of online games. This is based on my experience running 2 small, for-profit online games: Paintball NET (http://www.paintball-net.com) from 1996-2000, and Artifact (http://www.samugames.com/artifact) from 1998-present. I have conducted a bit of informal research into other online games, and while their experiences differ in some of the specifics, in general what I am presenting here holds true for all of them.
Summer: The Online Christmas
In most of the game development universe, the December Christmas season is the time of year for shipping a game and making the most money off of it. In online-only games, however, this is slightly different.
For online games with players primarily from the USA, the time of year is summer (June through August). The reason for this is simple: the "school kids" and the college students are home, have plenty of time on their hands, and are looking for online entertainment.
During the summer, it's not uncommon to have players who are quite literally logged in and playing 24x7, all day, every day. This can put a load on the game world servers, but the increase in sales that comes along with it makes it "all better."
Spring Break: A Taste of Summer
Though not at the same level as full summer, Spring Break is still a good time of year for online games. In the US, Spring Break is a one-week break for schools and colleges. There is no one single week for Spring Break, though. Spring Break for online games runs from the last week of February to the first week of April. During this time, the game will see a "taste of summer" in increased new players and increased usage by existing players.
Christmas: It's Still Not Bad
The more traditional Christmas season that occurs in December is still a good time of year for online games. The same variables are in play: schools and colleges are on extended break for the holidays and free time is readily available.
There is a minor difference from summer, though, in that the weather now enters the equation. Being a winter month, the players are very likely to be inside because the cold and/or wet weather makes being outside unpleasant. So not only are the players at home and have lots of free time, they have very little else to do. And so they will play online games. A lot.
In my experience, December is usually equal to any of the summer months in terms of traffic on the game and sales.
Back in 1997 I began noticing a trend in player attendance on certain holidays. From that I have identified what I call "indoor holidays" and "outdoor holidays."
Indoor holidays are holidays where player attendance is higher than normal. This is usually because of seasonal/weather conditions. Christmas (December 25) is the prime example. Though traditionally a day spent with family, by the middle of the afternoon "hanging with the family" has worn thin, it's too cold to go out and even if it wasn't, nothing is open on Christmas. So players boot up their games and log in.
Outdoor holidays are the opposite of indoor holidays. On outdoor holidays, player attendance dips. Again, this is because of seasonal/weather condition. Summer holidays like Memorial Day (last weekend of May) and Independence Day (July 4) are examples. In general, players have scheduled events for these holidays: cook-outs, beach parties, and so on. These events are most often outside, away from the player's computer, so they don't play.
Indoor Holidays (US)
Thanksgiving Weekend (4th weekend of November)
Christmas (25 December)
New Years (1 January)
Outdoor Holidays (US)
Memorial Day (last weekend of May)
Independence Day (4 July)
Labor Day (first Monday of September)
The Fall Meltdown
Just as summer is the best possible time for an online game, fall is the absolute worst. The players have all gone back to school, college, and even work. They are busy with their lives and can only allocate a minimal amount of time to the game. Attendance takes a dive. Revenue plunges.
In other words: Fall sucks.
The Online Game Calendar
This is a summary of the year from the viewpoint of online game player usage:
January. Riding the wave created by Christmas in December. A good month, but not at the level of a summer month.
February. Minor slump month. Not as bad as October, but still disappointing.
March. Spring Break causes a short-lived growth period.
April. Usually down from March. One, Spring Break is over, and two, spring is causing the players to go outside and enjoy the weather.
May. Beginning of the summer growth period. Usually on a par with April, maybe a bit better.
June-August. Full-blown summer. Enjoy it while it lasts.
September. The beginning of the end of summer. Still busy, but down from the peaks seen in August.
October. The Fall Meltdown. Players are back at school/college/work.
November. Only good in comparison to the dismal showing seen in October.
December. Christmas. It's all good, but it doesn't last very long.
Online games with a retail component, like EverQuest or Dark Age of Camelot, don't see traffic patterns exactly like this. Since they're on store shelves, they follow a more traditional retail pattern. Summer is still a very busy time for them.
I hope this article has at least given you a new way to look at the standard calendar. If you are running an online game, you can use the information presented here to help tweak your marketing efforts.
02-06-2003, 12:45 PM
Thanks for sharing this, David. Your results with online games are almost identical to our patterns with downloadable games. The one exception is that in 2001 and 2002, September was worse than October, but the 9/11 terrorist attack (and its anniversary) help explain that. CNN is perhaps our biggest competition -- when there's a lot happening in the news, people don't seek out entertainment as much. Game sales are best when nothing much is happening in the world.
On a strange note the autumn is the best time of year for resource items (for me anyways) like textures and models, etc.
I think that's because developers are in a crunch to make their Christmas release deadlines and are more willing to look for pre-made assets.