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If you've been gaming for as long as I have, you no doubt have certain expectations when it comes to video game releases. Triple A titles always come out during the fall. Madden during the summer. Niche titles in the earlier part of the year. And so on.

Sure, some games may have slipped through during unexpected times — GTA IV and Metal Gear Solid 4 chief among them — but it is as it has always been since we were first making Mario jump in the late '80s.

The Delay Game

Cue fall 2009, though, and gaming as we knew it had changed. Interrupted, if you'd like. Titles that we were expecting to gorge on during the holidays were delayed into an ever-distant future.

Splinter Cell Conviction. Bioshock 2. Heavy Rain. Mass Effect 2.

All of them delayed. All highly-anticipated games that were, presumably, done yesterday but were held over for a more vacant release window.

The reason? The one game that every publisher feared to compete against and, conversely, the game every gamer wanted was launching in November 2009: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Not even Microsoft dared to touch it. Bungie's penultimate game in the series, Halo 3:ODST, was released a couple of months earlier in September. The only games left were those that weren't trying entreat on MW2's strong first-person shooter roots.

The Interrupters

Assassin's Creed II and Borderlands succeeded because they were the only games in town that didn't force you to look down the barrel of a gun with the former and the latter flipped the script by adding co-operative Diablo-esque looting to the FPS mix.

Mario made the fall cut with New Super Mario Bros. Wii, as well, but who are we kidding? Nintendo can release anything "Mario" or "Wii" branded during a second Great Depression and still come out on top. Wii Play is the best selling game ever, so that clearly includes half-heartedly developed, peripheral-pushing titles as well.

How things played out for game release dates last fall created a ripple through the video game industry. The first three months of 2010 are set to be the heaviest (we're talking 800-pound gorillas here) early year releases gamers have ever seen.

The Sea of Change

Starting with Mass Effect 2, the aforementioned list of delayed games will be dropping ready to be picked up by eager and impatient gamers who will rip through the eco-friendly packaging and devour their delayed experiences.

ice cream coneIf things keep going the way they are, you can say goodbye to first quarter gaming bores. Goodbye to summer droughts. And goodbye to crowded, indistinguishable genre titles releasing in the same time frame.

You'll be able to eat your gaming ice cream any time of the year.

January through March will serve as your second Christmas; spring time would be reserved for PlayStation Network downloadable goodies; Xbox 360's XBLA turn would be in summer; a few double-A games would serve as lead up to the holidays August through October; and the established blockbusters would rule the pre-Christmas months.

A stream of great experiences would be had all year round. Creative, groundbreaking titles would be able to release without fear of instant death at retail and the Call of Dutys, Halos and Grand Theft Autos of the world can run free during their usual time slots.

The Defying Factors

The gaming schedule, of course, only changes if sales forecasts pan out for publishers. After all, they are not our friends. They care for the bottom line as much as everyone else.

It remains to be seen whether the kind of word of mouth that games like Darksiders and Bayonetta have generated online will translate into sales for THQ and SEGA. Titles that will serve as a sort of litmus test to see how games are expected to perform outside of the typical holiday release window.

Who knows, early 2010 sales numbers might turn out to be disastrous and reverse last year's fortunate delay of games to what we've always expected of game releases. A congested fourth quarter with the biggest titles waiting for us in November and putting up with crap the rest of the year.

I'm still hoping for an ideal outcome where 2010 becomes the model for a future with excellent games year-round uninterrupted by underwhelming gaming fodder filling in the cracks.