On the topic of launch game delays: They're not the end of the world, even when a new console launches
There has been a bit of hubbub concerning the delays of next-gen games Watch Dogs and The Crew. Rumor has it that DriveClub will be another game delayed out of a console launch window this year. While it’s important to deliver quality games alongside the launch of a console, it’s equally important to ensure that the quality of a game doesn’t suffer to ensure it releases alongside a console. Normally, delays aren’t exactly the end of the world. Yet for some reason, launch title delays get magnified.
Sometimes it’s due to the struggles a system has. Pikmin 3 was set to be a launch title for the Wii U and could have used its release to help bolster console sales. Rayman Legends was also set to not only be a launch title, but a third-party exclusive. Both games ended up releasing over the summer, some nine months after the release of the Wii U, and were born onto a console that has struggled in sales. This isn’t the only case, however. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was set to launch alongside the PS3 until getting delayed until 2007. Looking at the PS3 today, it’s silly to think about how much this type of delay could possibly hurt the system, but looking back at the incredibly weak launch line-up, it’s easy to see why. The Xbox 360 wasn’t immune, either; the very same game (Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion) was pushed back out of the launch line-up.
Of course, the Xbox 360 is also a prime example of why a delay of a launch game could be a good reason. Perfect Dark Zero could have benefited from an extra month or two (or ten) in development.
In fact, there are a lot of games out there in general that, given enough polish and tweaking, could greatly benefit from a delay. Sadly, many games also have to meet various deadlines. One deadline that has always seemed firm is a console's launch. Launch games are often thought of as being forgotten as time goes on; does anyone really remember Kameo, Red Steel, or Untold Legends? Thankfully, publishers have started a recent trend: delay games from a holiday season to the end of a fiscal year. The fiscal year for publishers doesn’t end until March, three months after a calendar year. That Watch Dogs delay might come out in a new calendar year, but it’ll be released in the same fiscal year (unless it’s delayed past March, which would be highly unlikely). The resulting polish a game receives can help increase its revenue and a publisher's fiscal year.
We’re not going to cancel all of our pre-orders on the Xbox One and PS4 because a couple of games were delayed. The Xbox One still has Forza Motorsport 5. The PS4 still has Killzone: Shadow Fall. The next-gen sports games are still coming. The next-gen versions of Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag are coming. Need for Speed: Rivals is still coming; both systems will still have plenty of games, meaning Ubisoft’s decision to keep their games in the cooker a little while longer shouldn’t be damaging. DriveClub’s delay does sting a little more, however, as Sony no longer has a racing game of their own to go toe-to-toe with Forza 5.
Does it suck that these anticipiated games are getting delayed? You bet. Will they be that much better when we finally get to play them? You bet. The Xbox One and PS4 aren’t going anywhere. We’ll be waiting when the games come.