Been out of town twice in the last week, so about the best I can do is toss together a few quick thoughts on the relentless efforts publishers make to release games in the weeks before Christmas.
Gonna cut right to the point here, the industry is worse off because of Xmas. And I point the blaming finger right at publishers. And while it's true that the industry gets half its annual sales during the holiday period, generally considered mid-Oct. through mid-Jan., all is not as it seems. Jolly St. Nick has ripped the goodness out of many potentially great games. I have two points:
 While it's unassailable that the industry moves shelf-loads of games during the Xmas season, it's both a self-fulfilling and a misleading statistic because the industry releases over half of their games in the few months leading up to Xmas. This reminds me of the stat about car wrecks I once read, explaining that most wrecks occur within five miles of the driver's home. Does this then mean that it's somehow more dangerous to drive locally than further away, such as on a long trip? Of course not! It only shows that people spend more time driving close to their homes than far away.
I'd like to see the industry wake up and look at what the movie industry has done. The movie industry has two big release periods: the end-of-year holiday period, AND the summer season. Somehow, the game industry has gotten into its head that the summer months are dead, and that gamers don't buy games during this time. I guess every gamer suddenly wants to hone their skills at tennis, skateboarding, mountain biking or league sports. But heaven knows we gamers can't waste a precious minute indoors when we could be outside in the beating heat and showing off our six-packs* at the local wave pool.
There's an even bigger crime for which we must prosecute publishers...
 Publisher's will kick an unfinished game out-the-door just to be on shelves during Xmas. I've heard this complaint over and over from studios who knew their games weren't quite ready for primetime, but were forced to release the game a month or three too soon. Publishers can of course say that studios will always believe their games need more work, but publishers need to figure out that it's in their best long-term interest to better judge whether a game will benefit substantially from extra polish. Publishers seem inadequate in this regard as the proof is on the shelves, with too many games needing patch work, and too many games released in a condition that could have been dramatically improved with a little more time and tweaking. Why spend two years making an okay game, when an extra two months can often double its sales?!
Perhaps it's not yet clear to most publishers that one of the most important ingredients to any game's success is its level of polish. Blizzard provides one of the best examples of putting polish on the pedestal it deserves. Blizzard's games are near perfect in this department, and even though they still require patches -- maybe unavoidable given the variety and instability of the PC industry itself -- their level of spit and shine is unmatched, and I'm positive this contributes mightily to their reputation and success.
The final nail in the coffin is the clear evidence that great games released outside the Xmas rush have succeed wildly. A good game will sell regardless of when it's released. In fact, I prefer that 3D Realms' games avoid the Xmas onslaught. Our own Duke Nukem 3D came out in May, sold brilliantly through summer, and on through Xmas of of 1996. The first Max Payne came out August 1st, 2001, and sold very well through the rest of the year.
By ignoring the false lure of Xmas you can insure that your game is properly polished -- a more important factor to a game's success than hitting Xmas -- and you will get more press coverage, as outside of E3 and Xmas, the press is hurting for good releases and stories to write about. Avoiding all of the Xmas competition seems like a smart move to me. Does anyone really believe that gamers only want games during Xmas?
* Of Mountain Dew, of course.