The day after Thanksgiving Day (here in the United States) is recognized in our household as Curmudgeon Day, a holiday I devised many years ago.
Curmudgeon Day is to be celebrated by never leaving the house, a practice which I faithfully observe every year. This is a day that many Americans have off from work as part of a four day weekend, and it is hyped by the media as the official start of the Christmas shopping season (despite the encroachment of Christmas promotions into October or September). This results in a shopping frenzy, making this the largest day of the year for retail sales. I am willing to bet it is also ranked high on the list of most dangerous days to be on the road, and simple observation informs my conclusion that it is the day that the most braindead walk (and drive) the Earth.
The massive commerce on this day makes it the most important day for retail games. When I worked in the retail game industry, it was almost inevitable that final deadlines would be based on having boxes on the shelves by the day after Thanksgiving. In the PC world, with lead times for packaging and CD pressing, this generally means a deadline for a final master set at October 1st, with a “drop dead” date of October 15th. I have even worked on a game that had this deadline in consecutive years! I understand that console games have a much longer lead time, while games published on the Internet, obviously, have relatively little lead time.
In my opinion, the industry is a little too trained on this schedule, and recent release schedules indicate that, although there is still a focus on the Christmas selling season, there is a little more variety in release dates. This helps relieve the issues of production scheduling, which used to be a problem with CD pressing, and having loads of brand new titles competing for finite cash, both for marketing and from the consumer. Big releases in slower times of the year could allow for more press coverage and less immediate competition.
The one Good Thing about this schedule is that it does help to greatly reduce the likelihood of “crunch time” during a busy holiday season.