Popular perception has it that July is not a good month for games and those who play them. Despite it being probably the best month of the year for other pursuits – avoiding rain, getting some vitamin D, forcing a smile into the faces of anyone British – the hottest month for Stevie Wonder is also the coldest for video game releases.
It's hard to argue with that point: very few 'big' games are launched in the July-August period. But just because that's the case doesn't mean there's a 'drought' of games, any more than not buying bottled water doesn't mean there's no water coming out of the tap. We've never had it so good.
Faced with so much choice that it can be overwhelming – I'm thinking of Mr. Burns in the supermarket, confused by the difference between ketchup and catsup – it can be easy to forget just how broad our options are these days, even when our own brains are conspiring to tell us there are 'no games'. Cast your minds back, if you can/were alive/haven't buried your past after that life insurance scam that went wrong, to the 90s, when obtaining video games was many a young person's personal Everest. Doubly so if, like me, you lived in a foreign country that a) had a strong currency and b) prohibited violent games.
Cartridges were expensive, reissues nearly non-existent, the second-hand market was more about luck than judgment, and – unless you had an Amiga and weren't bothered by being a filthy pirate – exposing yourself to new experiences was far, far more difficult than it is today. Even if you were at an age where you had disposable income, options were still relatively limited: you may have had the dollars to pick up any game you wanted, but there was still the hardware itself to consider, plus myriad other expenses to keep on top of.
Today, if there's nothing on the shelves then you can head over to Green Man Gaming, which is currently holding a sale, and pick from an assortment of titles. Want to relive your youth? Get over to Good Old Games and pick up Blood or Redneck Rampage or something for less than the price of a meal deal at your favourite lunch-serving corporate monolith.
Failing that there's Origin and Steam. The latter's annual summer sale helped push concurrent users of the service to a record high of eight million. Then there's the App store, Android store, Xbox Live, PSN, single-player DLC, add-ons, free multiplayer co-op modes, horse armour: there's more out there than there's ever been. So why do players still feel the need to complain about a 'drought' when there's more content than they could possibly play in a lifetime?
Part of the explanation is our obsession with 'new', a trait that's not necessarily unique to games but is built into the fabric of the medium. With the graphical arms race showing no sign of abating, players will always be desperate for the shiniest new thing. So too with mechanics: as studios evolve, they gain a greater understanding of how the various pieces of their games fit together, refining experiences, promising greater control than ever before, especially when earlier titles are now a chore to play (the Hitman series is a great example of this).
There's also the issue of time. Do players 'binge' franchises like they do with Game of Thrones or Mad Men or The Sopranos? No, because for most games it is a logistical impossibility. As Friend of VideoGamer Andy Kelly recently pointed out on Twitter, if he wanted to play the Metal Gear series from front to back he'd be looking at 85 hours. That's not 85 hours of passive watching, expertly tweaked to keep his attention, but half a week of play. That aside, the act of sitting down with an older game, with its less palatable graphics and controls, simply does not appeal to some. Yes, there are mods that can broaden the appeal, but that's a step too far for many.
As such, who can blame people for always looking forward to the next big thing, or iteration of their favourite franchise? When everything is always 'bigger, better, more badass', then of course there's going to be moans about video game release schedules (there are those who even moan when there are too many games coming out in the same window).
It's not hard to see why there's a perceived drought, but it's important to recognise that with a little bit of cash and some digging, there's an ocean of great games out there.