Monday, August 10, 2009

Why The Mass Delays Will Solve Nothing

It's getting ridiculous how many games have been delayed from holiday 2009 into early 2010, either out of sheer necessity for game quality or to move out of the crowded holiday season. But at a certain point, with so many games flocking to 2010, we have to recognize that we're solving problems by creating problems.

Holiday 2009: Part Two
With every developer pushing and shoving past each other to get out of the way for heavy hitters like Modern Warfare 2, Halo 3: ODST, and The Beatles: Rock Band that are definitely coming out this holiday season, it seems like no one stopped to think about how crowded 2010 has become. While there are many shifty "Early," "Q1," and "Spring" dates associated with many of the delays, there are also a lot of more specific "January" and "March" dates.

Those two months are quickly becoming problem areas where a lot of good games could get overlooked. With games like BioShock 2, Dark Void, and Bayonetta that all qualify as "triple-A" games vying for the spotlight in January, many gamers might just pass them up and go back to playing Modern Warfare 2 online.

March, lest we not forget, is already home to God of War III, which should absolutely dominate that month. Can Dead 2 Rights Retribution and Singularity really stand toe-to-toe with Kratos himself? Those games need to bank on the multiplatform sales that elude even the PS3-exclusive God of War III if they want a chance of success.

These are months that typically don't see the same kind of success as the Christmas season months when people are in the gift-giving mood, and with the recession still in full swing, it's not really realistic to expect people to shell out the cash on expensive videogames so soon after Christmas.

Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen
While it probably would've been beneficial for a few games to move out of the holiday 2009 lineup and into the early months of 2010, too many publishers all thinking the same thing quickly degenerated this strategy into merely creating the same problem for a less lucrative time of year.

It's a tough situation for everybody, but the reason why simply moving all these games two months down the line doesn't work is that there still isn't enough space between them. There are still too many awesome games coming out at once, and there just isn't enough time to digest them with the current release schedule.

Games like Burnout Paradise, Resident Evil 4, and God of War all enjoyed success releasing early in their respective years because those months were otherwise pretty desolate. They stood out. Too many games all trying to replicate these success stories practically guarantees failure for some of them.

Furthermore, what happens to the games holding firm in 2009? Sure, the juggernauts like Uncharted 2, Assassin's Creed II, and Guitar Hero 5 will still clean house, but even with far less competition, lesser known games like Borderlands, BrĂ¼tal Legend, and Alpha Protocol aren't out of danger of being lost in the shuffle just yet. Let's face it: holiday 2009 is still overcrowded.

What Needs To Happen
These delayed games need to spread out further if they want to survive. The publisher of, say, Darksiders needs to realize that by sandwiching themselves between Bayonetta and God of War III, they've done themselves no favors. They and others need to bite the bullet and push back further. Maybe even to summer, which so far is still looking as barren as usual despite all the delays.

The extra time between releases means more time to polish these games, allowing them to come out stronger and farther from competition once gamers are craving their next fix. This strategy might hurt some of these publishers in the short term, but ultimately they might come away having delivered a better game that got more attention and potentially more sales by dropping in the summer months that are much freer of competition.

As it stands now, big titles are stacked right on top of each other and less popular games are going to fall by the wayside very quickly. It's going to make for a very interesting time to watch the industry and a very hectic, exciting time to be a gamer, but many publishers may not be so amused when their flagship title gets swallowed up and forgotten.

For the record, the game I'm most disappointed that I won't get to play this year is Red Dead Redemption.


  1. It's a bit ridiculous to delay a game for fear of competition, and then place it, yet again in the mouth of a huge release. I appreciate that the games are going to be very well polished, but this sort of delaying process doesn't affect me as much as it will the publishers and developers. I'm not the one that could lose money by it's new position in release.

    Yes, many of these moves to 2010 are rather odd placements, even counterproductive to the point of the delay, but perhaps the move is better for the publisher and developer than it would in it's original slot. I want to say the publisher's know what they're doing here, but I can't really do that at this point...

  2. Yeah, I just think it's weird that any publisher would think that being released so close AFTER Modern Warfare 2 is safe. People are going to be hooked on the online; they aren't going to want to buy new games.

    But I guess as long as they're polishing these games in the delay time instead of just letting them sit (like Bayonetta) then it's better for the game.

  3. I'm not sure how much thought is actually put into a delay. It seems like a knee-jerk reaction for most games...

    For me, this isn't a huge deal. I have a list of games that interest me, and I plan on digging into them all, despite delays. But, in a mass market, where people focus a lot on the bigger titles, many little ones will suffer in the money area.

    Perhaps we'll see some future delays to bring them, yet again out of the danger zone, but that's unlikely. I think this is a publishers attempt at delaying their game to a safer date, while not making that date too far off. Either way, most of the delays don't seem too wise.