How crazy is it to think that summer is pretty much over? It certainly flew by, and with that, one of the biggest video game release windows is upon us. You are going to see a ton of AAA games released in the next few months, meaning if you were thinking about releasing your indie game in the next few months? You may want to think again.
That brings us to an interesting question: when is the best time for indie developers to release their games? Ulyana Chernyak over at Gamasutra published a post detailing the timing windows of game sales and releases. In my opinion, it’s mandatory reading for every indie developer. To give you a better idea regarding when you should release your indie game, let’s go through a rundown of the year.
AAA Season – September to November
As stated, avoid this release window at all costs. This season is specifically reserved for the AAA giants that want to release their biggest IPs before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The holiday shopping season belongs to gaming’s biggest players, meaning you need to wait until…
January – February
Two of the slowest months of the year in gaming, January and February are sort of in limbo when it comes to video game releases. AAA studios are usually quietly working on their next big releases of the year and are still riding the wave of (hopefully) strong profits from the holiday season rush. With such little competition, this is one of the prime times to release your indie game.
Late July – August
Late July and most of August is also a dead month for game releases – specifically because AAA studios are getting their biggest properties ready to be launched during the AAA season (as mentioned above). The tail end of summer is a great time to release your new indie game, as the chances of your indie game getting overlooked by a AAA game is pretty slim.
Sale season is an exciting time for indie developers since it gives everyone a chance to discount their past library for cool profits. While the bulk of these seasonal sales are on Steam, other stores provide their own sales as well. Spring sales usually last between March and April while summer sales typically last between June and July. Since customers are in a buying mood (especially when they are promised deals) during these time periods, don’t be afraid to heavily discount your games to attract buyers.
Winter and holiday sales are also a prime time for you to place your indie games on sale. Coinciding with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, these sales usually take place during the end of November and throughout December. Thus, consider placing your games on sale during the winter sales on Steam and other stores as it’s the second biggest time for cool sales next to annual summer sales.
Note: Notice that we didn’t mention May. It’s a bit of a crapshoot: news is starting to leak about E3, some AAA developers choose to launch their games during May so they can have some momentum going into E3 and other conferences, etc. Plan ahead. If you notice May is going to be a primarily dead month, consider launching your indie game in May if it’s ready for launch.
As you can see, there are only a few months out of the year where the competition from AAA games is essentially null. Consider planning your release schedules around these dates to gain the maximize amount of exposure and of course – profits!