If ever there was a video game series that made me feel like I was missing out on something crucial, it's Dragon Quest. It's been around since the days of the Famicom, and every single iteration seems to enjoy some version of popularity and success. Even so much as to apparently affect Japanese law. Fans of Dragon Quest, Japan, or general video game history will already know about the “Dragon Quest Law.” This law was passed around as fact throughout the years, but it's become clear very recently that it isn't entirely true.
The Dragon Quest Law urban myth led many to believe that Dragon Quest games were released on a Saturday through a Japanese government mandate. The history on this comes from the very first Dragon Quest game. When it released, students played hooky from school so they could stay home and play it. Adults did the same, calling in to work so they could enjoy the video game. This resulted in what was called a “sick day” epidemic. It was reportedly so bad, it even affected the Japanese economy. At that point, it's widely remembered that Japan passed a law that directed Square Enix to only release Dragon Quest games on the weekend. This was meant to prevent another economy altering epidemic.
The truth isn't too far off. Rather than the government stepping in, Square Enix actually had a conversation with Nintendo to set the new release window themselves. At the time, it was normal for most games to release on a Thursday. But the folks over at Square Enix felt so bad about student skipping school to buy and play their game, that they asked Nintendo for an exception. Dragon Quest games have ever since released on Saturday. This permeated the Dragon Quest Law story until a recent IGN interview with Yuji Horii, the series creator, and Yuu Miyake, the executive producer. Miyake cleared up the fog of history for us all.
It sparks an interesting conversation though. Why are so many games released on a weekday, when they would be much easier to purchase and enjoy on a weekend for students and many working folks alike? Let's take March 2018 as an example. 24 total games were released and only eight of those fell on a Friday. (None appeared on Saturday or Sunday.) Those releases fell under the following platforms for context: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR, Nintendo Switch, and 3DS. It's crazy to think that out of all those great games, only eight could be fully enjoyed by the vast majority of the market on day one. Perhaps some students even played hooky or adults called in sick to enjoy some of those games. Certainly not on the scale that created the Dragon Quest Law myth, but even still.
It was pretty much industry standard for a long time that video games would release on Tuesdays (thanks, Sonic the Hedgehog 2). That's changed in recent years, video game releases are all over the place now. In my quick research for this piece, I saw game releases on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, but none on Saturday or Sunday. I feel like Sunday could really function much like a weekday when it comes to video game releases. Most people will not be able to stay up until the wee hours of the morning on a Sunday to play a brand new game. But where's the love for Saturday?!
I took the time to check all the known release dates for big games this year (2018) and none of them are set to release on a Saturday. While Friday games are all well and good, Saturday is even better! There's no school or work (for many people) to have to wait through before they can play their new favorite video game. The gaming binge can commence immediately on Saturday!
At the very least, I can't help but wonder how the video game industry would change if it stuck to a more industry-wide release date like Friday or Saturday. What day do you think would be optimal for big releases? Especially to avoid another Dragon Quest Law myth. Let me know in the comments!