The video game industry makes bundles during the holidays. In fact, it's resisting the recession quite well, with November sales up 10 percent from a year earlier, according to The NPD Group. And year-to-date sales are up 22 percent.
So how does the industry spotlight the holidays that mean so much? By ignoring them.
There are few holiday-themed video games out there. It makes sense, of course. Why pigeonhole your game into being interesting for just a month or two? But it would seem that some of the more popular Christmas specials — the Rudolphs and Frostys of the world — might have some games.
Not so. Zoo Digital — the company behind the forthcoming Calvin Tucker's Redneck Jamboree — released a Nintendo DS version of Dr. Seuss' Grinch last year. I would say draw your own conclusions about quality, but let Calvin be your guide as well as the headline on IGN's review of Grinch: "Someone stole all the fun out of this game."
There was also a PlayStation, Dreamcast and PC adaptation of the Grinch movie back in 2000. Those topped out at 55/100 on Metacritic. Of course, the sad part is that's nine points better than the movie. Ouch.
And there a few others. For a great discussion of them, visit www.gamasutra.com and search for Persuasive Games: The Holly and the Ivy.
But perhaps it's time a developer really delves into our treasured holiday lore — meaning Rankin/Bass, the brilliant minds behind Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town. Maybe they're short platformers (non-gamers should think Super Mario Bros.), which would be perfect for hand-held systems. Levels could be dedicated to rescuing misfit toys or outrunning Frosty's Professor Hinkle.
A hand-held version would give you a game that can sell well over multiple years because no current generation console probably will have a life cycle long enough to offer the number of Christmases needed to sell enough copies for a good return on investment. That said, the Wii might be the perfect home. Its legions of casual gamers would be the ideal audience for such a game, and the legendary names of Frosty, Rudolph and Santa would help the games stand out from the piles of crap that are released daily for the Wii (again, Calvin Tucker).
So put the elves to work, Santa. I wants me a Rudolph game.