With such high-profile fall video games as “Starcraft 2,” “BioShock 2, “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction” and “Army of 2: The 40th Day” pushed back until after Christmas, when they’ll compete against the likes of “God of War 3” (above) and “Dead Rising 2,” winter is starting to look like the new fall. In-demand, big-budget titles are stacking up as far as the eye can see.
At first, the delays of several games to the less crowded January-to-March window sounded like great news. Any gamer with a finite amount of either time or cash will tell you that the past several Labor Day-to-Christmas crushes of must-play games were overwhelming. Most folks don’t want to buy five $60 games in a six-week span, and those who don’t mind plunking down a few hundred bucks at a time on “must-play” games would be hard-pressed to find enough hours to devote to ‘em all, anyway. Heck, I haven’t even gotten around to playing more than bits and pieces of “Assassin’s Creed,” “Super Mario Galaxy,” “Gears of War 2,” or “Resistance 2,” all big, well-reviewed games from the last couple of autumns, because I was too busy playing other new releases when those games hit stores and never got back to ‘em. Surely, I’m not alone.
The backloading of games to the end of the calendar can’t be good for publishers, either. Titles like the four I’ve barely gotten to would have sold well any time of year, but last year, fall games like “Mirror’s Edge” “Valkyria Chronicles” and “Far Cry 2” garnered decent reviews but sold poorly. This might be because they were unable to break through in a season dominated by a handful of big titles. While not every late fall 2009 title was delayed in the hopes it’d have weaker competition in the winter, publishers of less visible games like PlayStation 3 exclusive “Heavy Rain” and the multiplatform “Bayonetta,” in which a crazy woman with crazy hair and vaguely Sarah Palinesque glasses slashes hordes of enemies to ribbons, have either said or implied they don’t want to go head-to-head with the likes of “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.”
Of course, after all the delays, gaming magazines and blogs have started to insinuate that this fall’s release calendar is too light on games, a laughable assertion given that many of the same outlets have railed against the pre-Christmas glut in years past. But one thing all this delaying of titles has done is threaten to turn next spring into what this fall might have been. Is “Heavy Rain” going to do any better if it releases alongside fellow PS3 exclusive “God of War 3,” a sequel to two of the best-selling games on the PS2?
Gaming execs apparently have been wondering the same thing. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, whose company already delayed “Splinter Cell: Conviction” once, told a British gaming Web magazine this week that he expects some of those “early 2010” titles to slip back to a less crowded spot of next calendar year. Hopefully once the dust settles, we’ll end up with quality video games spaced a little more evenly throughout the year. And who knows, the extra development time could lead to more polished, less buggy games.