Houser: Industry must break seasonal sales cycle

Rockstar co-founder sees Christmas bottleneck as sign of immaturity

Rockstar's Dan Houser has said that for the games industry to mature, it needs to move away from a sales model that places too much emphasis on the Christmas period.

Traditionally a huge majority of product is released during September to December, creating a bottleneck that can see quality titles swamped by a glut of games on the market.

Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto IV was originally scheduled for October last year and would have seen it dropped into the busiest sales period, but a delay until a quiet period doesn't seem to have dampened enthusiasm for the game.

"This franchise is so big that it doesn’t need a Christmas release to do well," said Houser, speaking to Variety.

"It would be great for the videogame industry to move out… Christmas has always been big and it's always going to be, but it's gotten so focused in videogames. I think for the next stage of its maturity as a business it needs to move out anyway.

"It's interesting to see what's hopefully going to be the biggest release this year not going at Christmas," he added.

While Microsoft has been making a lot of noise about how it intends to support GTA IV, Houser has said that when it comes to marketing, it's the developer who should be in charge of the sign-off, insisting it's those closest to the game that know the intended audience.

"No ads have been cut out-of-house. We use a media buyer. Apart from that, we've always believed in doing that stuff ourselves," stated Houser.

"That was something we took from the movie companies. Our belief is this is a cultural product and we understand how to present it better than an advertising agency ever could."

Although hype surrounding the game is at fever pitch, Rockstar itself tries to keep official coverage and details of the content at a minimum, which Houser believes is important so consumers don't feel product fatigue before the the title is even released.

"There's big danger that's more prevalent now than at any time in the history of this kinda stuff, because there's so many channels and so much interest in any launch of a big movie or big videogame, where people see it and see it and see it and by the time they actually go to see it or play it or read it, they're bored of it. They know what's going to happen," he said.

"We're not trying to run the best marketing campaign, we're trying to sell the most videogames. We're trying to get enough people excited and our main method of doing that has always been, 'If the game is of high quality, it will sell.'"

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