It's hard to believe that at the start of the year, “Fallout 4” was little more than a rumor. Bethesda's last major entry in the series, “Fallout 3,” was one of the defining game experiences of the last decade, and they've set the bar very high for themselves. I didn't really enjoy the “New Vegas” follow-up, but it felt like half a game to me. When “Skyrim” came out, it reminded me of why “Fallout 3” was great, but it pulled me in even more, and I think if I were pressed, I'd have to name “Skyrim” as my favorite game of all time.
I have so little time for playing games these days that when I do carve that time out for myself, I have to make sure I'm going to really enjoy the experience and get something out of it. It's got to be something I can return to more than once, something that continues to offer me more and more as the game wears on. If you're going to really play a game, particularly an open world game, and you're going to do justice to the experiences that these people create these days, then you're going to need to spend some major time with it.
But here's where the game industry and the movie industry should work to differentiate themselves. Right now, there is a major gaming season, right at the end of the year, with dozens of giant triple-A titles released in a fairly dense schedule, one on top of another. I've been playing “Assassins Creed: Syndicate” for two weeks now. “Halo 5: Guardians” is already in stores, as is “Call of Duty: Black Ops III,” which just arrived yesterday. Both “Fallout 4” and “Rise Of The Tomb Raider” show up on Tuesday, with “Star Wars: Battlefront” the week after that. “Just Cause 3” and “Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege” are the first of December, and those are just the titles I'm personally interested in. There's so much more, and all of it is going to be competing. The thing with games is that it's not just the money that makes it difficult to play everything… it's the time. Playing just the games listed here, and just in campaign mode, would still represent an investment of hundreds of hours. Add multi-player, one of the main reasons some of these titles exist, and you're talking about a huge swath of time that's given up to gaming.
I assume the reason these games all fight over this same calendar real estate is because of Christmas and the way people spend money during the holidays, but it seems insane to me. While movies do the same thing, packing in tons of big A-list titles in November and December, each movie is an investment of two hours and less than $20. Each game I mentioned is at least $60 and could take you a full month to play if you're a functional adult with both work and family already taking most of your time.
So when I look at this final “Fallout 4” trailer, I'm looking at it as a pretty major bid for my attention. Do I want to hand over this much of my life to a title? The trailer makes a pretty persuasive case for this feeling like a real “Fallout” game, another thing that I'm curious about. It's easy to keep using the same name on a series, but it's harder to retain the things that distinguish a series even as you innovate or experiment with formula.
What giant releases (or indie releases, for that matter) have your attention this holiday season? And how do you handle this kind of avalanche of titles in a small window of time? Do you slowly catch up, or do you just accept that there are games you'll never play?