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October 7: Circle It On Your Calendar

In March, we put together a list of days when multiple major titles went head-to-head, vying for your hard-earned money. You know those days because your wallet winces in pain, especially if your choice of games is “all of them.”

October 7, 2014, is shaping up to be another one of those battleground moments, and could take the crown for the greatest of them all. Right now, you can choose among Alien: Isolation, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, and Dragon Age: Inquisition. All three look impressive, but with limited funds and time, many gamers have a tough decision on their hands.

And this is what we know right now, before E3 dumps a mountain of information on us and the trickle of digital-only games that typically get release dates closer to launch start to come into focus. It would be naïve to think that crowded days like this (even in the context of the busiest season of the year) don’t scare publishers just a little bit.

The video game industry is still driven by big hits. Game development costs are rising, especially when it comes to cross-generation titles (a category in which all three of these fit). The potential payoff is greater, sure; there are 150 million installed last-gen consoles versus under a tenth of that for new hardware. But the stakes are so much higher.

It’s important to understand what this week of the year looks like in context. In 2013, NBA 2K14 and Etrian Odyssey were the only two releases on October’s first Tuesday. The following week saw Beyond: Two Souls, Disgaea D2, Pokémon X&Y, and Skylanders: Swap Force. 

The competition for a mature audience (not that Pokémon and Skylanders don’t have adult appeal) simply wasn’t there for the first half of the month. It was a bit more contentious in 2012, with Resident Evil 6, NBA 2K13, and Pokémon Black and White 2 in the first week. The second week saw XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Code of Princess, and Dishonored.

The first half of October in 2011 wasn’t as aggressive either. Dark Souls and Rage battled for those in search of a more mature experience. NBA 2K12, Spider-Man: Edge of Time, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, and Forza Motorsport 4 rounded out the period.

Looking back as far as 2011, there weren’t two titles facing off quite like Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Dragon Age: Inquisition. Both are dark fantasy titles with strong (overlapping) fan bases. In a crowded fall season, this date is already stacked with high anticipation.

That juxtaposition doesn’t help either developer and publisher duo, and as far as Sega is concerned, it almost guarantees that Alien: Isolation will get buried in the conversation. And let’s be honest, people are still feeling the sting of the last Alien game, which is working against Creative Assembly’s more authentic take on the franchise.

Moving later in the month invites competition from Batman: Arkham Knight and Assassin’s Creed (we assume based on Ubisoft historical releases). Neither of those are inviting choices. September is largely empty right now, except for the 800 lb. gorilla, Destiny, on September 9.

Whether one or more of these titles is moved off of October 7 or not, one thing is for sure: we won’t be starved for exciting games this fall. As E3 approaches and the release calendar starts to get more robust, it’s best that we all start saving up for a heavy gaming season.

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