Publishers See Sense On Release Schedules?

Over the last month or so we have seen quite a few games, some big, some less so, getting their releases pushed back into 2010 when it had been expected that they could or would be released this side of Christmas.  Sega’s bespectacled witch Bayonetta is the latest title to have its, western, release date slide into this century’s second decade.  Other games that have slipped recently are Bioshock 2, Mafia 2, Singularity and MAG.

It almost seems that publishers have learnt from EA’s experience with Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge last year and decided that the period from mid September through to early December already has plenty of games coming out and that for their games to get noticed they need the breathing space that they will be able to find in the new year.

Despite the delays to some games there are still plenty due this Autumn.  Just off the top of my head… Uncharted 2, Assassins Creed 2, Brutal Legend, Ratchet And Clank: A Crack In Time, Borderlands, The Saboteur, Gran Turismo 5, Blur, Dirt 2, Need For Speed: Shift, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, The Beatles: Rock Band, Lego Rock Band, Guitar Hero 5, Dragon Age: Origins, Alpha Protocol, Avatar and of course the juggernaut that is Modern Warfare 2.  Additionally two of last year’s big hitters, Fallout 3 and LittleBigPlanet, are getting re-releases as Game Of The Year editions.   That’s just some of the games that you will be able to buy for your PS3.  I am sure you can all think of some that I have missed.

Just in that list there are five games I need to buy and several more I might consider so personally I am glad that the likes of Bioshock 2 and MAG are not out until next year.  If you are publishing an FPS then a very good reason not to release in the run up to the holidays is Modern Warfare 2.  Activision themselves have used that as a reason for justifying releasing Singularity early next year and you have to wonder whether that is a significant factor in MAG’s delay.

So have publishers really seen sense?  Bioshock is delayed because it needs “additional time”.  Its delay and that of Mafia 2 had a significant effect on Take Two’s projected 2009 revenue leading their share price to take a pretty big hit which surely was not desirable.  Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising has actually slipped into competition with MW2 which cannot be something that Codemasters would have chosen if they could reasonably avoid it.

It seems that the two factors that are behind the delays we have been hearing about are games not meeting their development deadlines and the unwillingness of publishers to release an FPS anywhere near Modern Warfare 2 rather than publishers replanning their release schedules to make them more rational.  With game development taking typically taking two years for the bigger titles, perhaps in the next year or two we may begin to see a more even distribution of releases throughout the year.

What are your feelings on how the release schedule looks for the next six months or so?

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