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The Xmas Rush

August 29th, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Uncategorized

Gaming has gone Hollywood. Just like the movie studios hold their big Oscar guns until the last couple of months of the year, the September to December period sees a lot of big game releases. The summer months are full of small gems or underappreciated titles, but, for the most part, gaming houses hope to persuade us to stuff a stocking or two with their games.

The holiday rush is four months instead of four weeks like the movie business, and this fall season will be a glorious one for strategy gamers. Some titles I am watching (all release dates are tentative and may conflict with other sites):

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War – Winter Assault September 20
Sims 2 – Nightlife September 14
Rome: Total War – Barbarian Invasion September 28

Three big expansions for the upcoming month. Warhammer was a tasty morsel, but not very filling. The Sims 2 and Rome are dinner table discussion in my home.

Shattered Union October 5
Black and White 2 October 5
Age of Empires III October 19
Diplomacy November 2
The Movies
November 9
Civilization IV November 15
Star Wars: Empire at War December 28

In AoE, Civ and Star Wars you have three critic proof franchises. In Black and White 2 and The Movies you have two games by Peter Molyneux which could be either amazing or disappointing or both in equal measure. Shattered Union is also being released on the Xbox and Diplomacy will be the first Paradox game that looks nothing like Europa Universalis.

Even spaced out over a few months, this is a lot of strategy goodness. I’m not even including games from independent publishers like Battlefront, which has Down in Flames coming out in a couple of weeks, or Matrix Games, which lists a bunch of games as “coming soon”, which could mean anything or a bunch of other strategy titles which I am not excited about (Earth 2160, American Conquest: Divided Nation, etc.).

In the May to August 2005 window, you had no must have big name strategy games released. The OK Supreme Ruler 2010 and the very disappointing Imperial Glory were the closest things. Maybe the Codename Panzers sequel.

Yes, outside my own little strategy fiefdom you had two huge releases – Battlefield 2 and GTA: San Andreas. But this fall will also see Quake 4, Call of Duty 2, City of Villains, Serious Sam II, Fable and the already controversial 25 to Life. A fine lineup of games in demand that, if not the one-two punch of BF2 and GTA:SA, can hold its own many other games.

And I can’t buy them all in a four month period. Even if I could, I doubt I could play them all. As much as gamers of my generation love to lament that games aren’t any good anymore, each year there is no shortage of stuff for me to catch up on.

You want to know how bad it is? I haven’t even gotten around to Warcraft III.

Yeah, a lot of my time is used up looking for full time work and writing about the latest obscure Shrapnel offering in breathless prose, but I know I’m not alone. Except for those few people blessed enough to make playing games their primary source of income, no one in my generation can really afford to game the way we used to, and by cramming all these promising games into one four month period we may not get around to them until they are old news.

I guess it shouldn’t matter that they are old news, but there is something to the community sense of discovery when a major game is released and everyone plays it together.

“Have you tried x?”
“Why did they do it that way?”
“I hate this!”
“I love this!”
“Monster closets!? In Civ?”

I’d love to have the dog days of summer as full of great world conquering toys as the Christmas season is. Everyone wants to get new games at Christmas – it makes me very easy to shop for – but is it so hard for publishers to spread around the joy? I don’t think I can wait three more weeks.


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