Thanks much to Ephriam Knight and this post (read it!) for the inspiration. I was going to reply, but I tend to get wordy.
It's an astute observation that videogames don't really have a "big-event" equivalent to other related entertainment industries. I think that revenue streams for games are actually very diverse right now, possibly moreso than ever before. From microtransactions to subscription models, streaming content and more, there's lots of ways to make money from games.
But, there's not a "big-event". There's nowhere that people can go to get a super-high-quality, one-time experience with a game that's worth paying extra money for. There's the actual game release of course, which is largely the target of all current AAA development. Big sales right away are largely how games are measured in terms of success, and sales usually trail off relatively quickly. There are exceptions of course.
However, the release of a game still doesn't hold the same qualities as seeing that brand new movie on a three-story tall screen, or hearing (much too loudly) how much your favorite band
sucks rocks when they play live. I know some of us crazy gamers might get the mates together and have some beer just to celebrate how awesome Flower is, but that still seems like pretty fringe behavior overall.
So how to create a big-to-do, social and engaging experience for when a new game comes out? Do it like the movies. Sorta. Bring back the arcade, but with a twist.
The last arcade game I remember anyone outside of my gamer-folk mates talk about was probably Dance Dance Revolution, and I don't want to think about how long ago that was. I do recall the displays of Guitar Hero at various retail outlets being the source of a lot of attention. The original novelty of a full size plastic guitar, blaring music, and a constant brightly-colored stream of dots was enough to catch the interest of many passers-by.
First, imagine that arcades are fairly commonplace. Like maybe any good sized mall will have one. Now imagine big displays, big speakers, and a spot right by the window out to that mall. Now imagine that for 3 months, this is the only place you can play Halo Reach. This is the new arcade. This is the big event baby.
If games had a special venue where you could go and play with your friends in a public spot, and it was the only place you could play new games, I think they would make a killing. After a time, the game can be released to consoles/PC as usual, and folks can play for as long as they want and at their own convenience at home. This basically follows the movie model. They key is to make the arcade experience be bigger and better than what you can get at home. Make it public, social, and attractive to the general public. Give them all something to watch, if not play. More exposure can only help a good game sell more copies.
By following the proven lead of other industries and being daring enough to innovate, we all might just find another way to make a buck.