The Bleak Midwinter: Big Games Slip To 2010

By John Walker on July 14th, 2009 at 11:55 am.

You'll have to wait to beat that child with a pistol, sir.

It’s going to be a quieter Christmas than we were expecting. A bundle of big-name games have announced in the last few days that they’ll no longer be bulging Santa’s sack, but instead offering themselves in the colder months of 2010. This year your Christmas tree will not be towering over 2K games BioShock 2, Mafia II, nor Max Payne 3. Indeed they’re not alone. A smattering of console-only titles have also slipped, as well as Activision’s Singularity. What’s a jolly-bellied man to do this holiday season? Deliver Modern Warfare 2 an awful lot, it seems.

It’s with perhaps some slightly poor timing that I received a parcel of viral BioShock 2 bumph. But it’s a nice collection of well-rendered children’s drawings of Big Daddies with weapons dripping in blood, along with a letter from one Mark G. Meltzer in New York appealing for my help to find his missing daughter. Mr Meltzer, racked with grief, invested his efforts into building a ludicrously elaborate flash teaser site, as so many panicked parents will. He saw fit to include a hand-scrawled note linking me there. They’ve filled it with clues and teases and puzzles and so on, although the hype it’s intended to build will have to stretch a little further than perhaps planned.

Take Two issued one of those frightening financial updates, explaining within,

“The decision to shift a release date is never an easy one, especially with a product as highly anticipated as BioShock 2. We felt that it was essential to invest the additional time to ensure that this title will deliver what its fans expect and deserve. As a result, we will now be launching sequels to several of our strongest franchises – including BioShock 2, Mafia II, Max Payne 3 and Red Dead Redemption – during the next fiscal year. These titles will anchor our lineup for fiscal 2010, and along with other products planned for next year, provide a platform for enhanced financial performance in what we hope will be an improved retail environment.”

(I also like the bit where they explain there will be a $0.12 expense per share due to “unusual legal matters”. I imagine them being sued by a shark, or taken to court for wearing too many socks.)

It really does look like a stunning 2010 line-up for 2K, and it can be welcome news when a game’s being delayed to make sure it’s good enough. It’s welcomier when it’s finished on time, of course, but better to get the best game possible a few months late. Although you’re going to have to start thinking of new things to put on your Christmas list or – hell – if you only wanted those games take the opportunity to just be naughty. What’s Father Christmas going to do?

The other recent slippage announcement is Singularity – Raven’s first “new IP” – which looks to be a Lost-inspired first-person shooter, meddling with time and physics. It’s also being held back to 2010 by Activision, although for a different reason. They don’t want to hinder their own sales by launching it against the all-conquering goliath that Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 will inevitably be.

Speaking to IGN, an Activision spokesperson said,

“The level of excitement for Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare 2 coming out of E3 well exceeded our expectations and therefore we have decided to move Raven’s upcoming sci-fi first person action title, Singularity, from 2009 to Q1 2010, said the spokesperson. We believe that the March quarter will provide a better opportunity to establish the new cutting-edge action IP as a must-have title and clears the way for Modern Warfare 2 to dominate this holiday season.”

This of course gives Raven a few more months to polish the game, and they’ve still got Wolfenstein coming out next month. But it means Christmas is a quieter period this year. Of course there will still be two million squillion games competing for your cash. In fact, it seems to work out rather well, giving you a chance to spread out your purchases across the year… It’s almost as if that would make sense as a release model for all publishers! I can dream.

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63 Comments »

  1. jon_hill987 says:

    Probably for the best, when huge numbers of games get released together in the Christmas rush they sell worse and they blame piracy rather than the publishers stupidity at releasing it alongside several other AAA titles.

  2. Mr Pink says:

    Well, at least we’re still getting L4D2! *Hides*

  3. Acosta says:

    Translation: With Halo:ODST and Modern Warfare 2, we don’t want to see our others FPS taking dust on the shelves.

    I’m ok with it, I hope Mafia II gets all the polish and care necessary to deliver, the ones who loved Mafia have a huge standard for the sequel and we have waited for years, we can wait a bit more. Same goes for Bioshock.

    I’m a bit puzzled about Red Dead Redemption, I guess that in this case is not only a strategic date move, but a real need to have more time.

  4. Ali D says:

    I’m glad actually. Three’s still too many games coming out during the October/November glut. I know I for one can’t afford all of them at once, so I’m glad to see Bioshock 2 moved to early next year.

  5. The Poisoned Sponge says:

    I’m glad to finally see Developers stop thinking that all gamers buy their games at Christmas. The majority of the games talked about above are going to be 18 rated, so (theoretically), only adults should be buying them, and adults buy their own games, for the most part. No point having them vie For you attention when they can occupy the ‘dead’ months.

  6. phil says:

    Perhaps this is less to do with development time and more to do with shoring up the stock price over the course of 2010 – Grand Theft Auto 5 is probably still a looooong way away.

  7. Owen says:

    “They don’t want to hinder their own sales by launching it against the all-conquering goliath that Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 will inevitably be”
    I wonder how many of these delays are directly related to that in fact. “aggh, the bigger-boy-game is coming to the park! RUN!” :)

  8. Optimaximal says:

    They’re just worried they can’t compete with the Night Vision Goggles…

    http://www.joystiq.com/2009/07/13/modern-warfare-2-prestige-edition-includes-working-night-vision/

  9. Winston says:

    This isn’t so much about improving quality as it is about reducing team size, burning cash more slowly, and hoping that people will be buying more games in 2010 than they are in 2009.

    It’s also a coded call to other publishers to stagger their releases to effectively reduce competition within the industry so that fewer companies go bust.

    I clearly have my cynical hat on today.

  10. Dominic White says:

    Another game that won’t be making 2009 is Kingdom Under Fire 2, the ridiculously ambitious looking Action/RPG/RTS/MMO hybrid.

    http://www.kufii.com/ENG/

    Check out those screenshots/trailer. Seriously pretty stuff. The game itself has been in development for ages – since around when the 360 first came out, I believe. Guess they’re going for a ‘done when its done’ approach.

    Seems to be working, though. Hard to look at a shot like this and not be impressed:
    http://www.blueside.co.kr/root_file/products/screenshots/2009000000000032.jpg

  11. Andy says:

    Still plenty coming out this year without these though.

    I suppose we can count L4D2 in this providing there’s no repeat of the Valve-time-prophecy. If it’s on time I’ll eat my hat…without ketchup.

    Personally this year I’m mostly looking forward to Gearbox’s Borderlands and Cliffski’s Gratuitous Space Battles above all else.

  12. Jonny says:

    I’m genuinely glad! I still haven’t completed BioShock, plus last Christmas was games overload. I’m still yet to complete half of the great games that arrived in October/November 2008. We’ll just have to make do with L4D2 and CoD: MW2. Ah well!

  13. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    There are already way too many games coming out. I mean, sheesh.

    That is, as a mac gamer I’ve never been used to the veritable deluge of games Windows users have available to them. And although I feel we could have a few more, the number of games appearing for Windows is staggeringly overwhelming to the point of me not buying games at all (unless something -really- enticing comes along).

  14. Clovus says:

    @Mr. Pink: Haha, ya, while AIM love to complain about L4D2, I look to my 13 year old brother for a good idea of what will actually be selling big. For his birthday/Christmas there are two games at the top of his list: L4D2 and Modern Warfare 2. We can complain all we want about L4D2 being a glorified expansion, but can anyone really hate on Valve for not accepting boatloads of cash? Also delaying other games makes sense. My mother and I (the people who buy his games) aren’t going to be buying anything else after dropping $120 on those in the 4th quarter.

    @The Poisoned Sponge: Rated 18 (or M here) will mean the game will not end up in the hand of a couple poor loser teens with hand wringing parents. Those ratings don’t mean anything to parents. In the states I guess parents would freak if they saw some boobies, but any non-retarded teen knows not to go in the GTAIV strip club when Mom is watching you play.

  15. cliffski says:

    Gratuitous Space Battles will be out this year. Everyone can buy that instead :D

  16. jsutcliffe says:

    Please do not use the word “Midwinter” in post titles. It gets me all excited…

  17. Rei Onryou says:

    I’m glad that they’re at least being sensible about the release dates and I’m hoping that also means the games will have more work put into them, rather than being ready at XMas and just being shelved until March.

    Finally, perhaps a 1st quarter with reasonable releases (excluding DoW2 and Empire).

  18. Gabanski83 says:

    Any word on Half Life 2: Episode 3 though, maybe hitting next year? Or are Valve 100% concentrating on L4D2?

  19. Azazel says:

    Oh yeah, Half-Life 2: Episode 3: Leyton Orient 0…

    Whatever happened to that? A trailer will be released before the end of the decade presumably?

  20. Legionary says:

    >”(I also like the bit where they explain there will be a $0.12 expense per share due to “unusual legal matters”. I imagine them being sued by a shark, or taken to court for wearing too many socks.)”

    Well played, sir.

  21. Owen says:

    “Please do not use the word “Midwinter” in post titles. It gets me all excited…”. Likewise. Jim mentioned it in passing in a podcast a few weeks back actually. I had an immediate, “fuuuuuck, Midwinter. Oh yeah!” blast-from-the-past moment.

  22. kevlar says:

    I’m actually kinda down on it as I’m a big fan of shooters but I don’t like the Halo Series or the Infinity Ward games so it’ll be slim pickings this holiday season. If none of them gets delayed however, it looks like a huge holiday for me to play RPGs, though: Dragon Age, Divinity 2, Risen, Alpha Protocol.

  23. cyrenic says:

    It’s about time publishers start to wise up and stagger their release schedules a bit. There’s only so many games you can buy around Christmas.

  24. Super Bladesman says:

    The more games slip, the more time I have to look forward to and enjoy playing Borderlands.

    I don’t know why I’m so eager for it, but I really am.

  25. JKjoker says:

    what AAA releases are set for xmas (other than L4D2 and MW2) ?
    i used to check in gamerankings but since they changed their site design they removed the ability to check the release list (or at least i cant find the link to it)

  26. ChaosSmurf says:

    StarCraft II unlikely to be this year as well.

    But yeah, only a good thing – I wasn’t even expecting Bioshock 2 this year <.<

  27. Dracko says:

    Fine by me either way. I’d rather put down a decent amount of money for two guaranteed instant classics (Halo: ODST and Modern Warfare 2 – with NVGs and Soap bust to dress up in luchador masks, natch) than be swamped with mediocre titles heavy on glitz and hype.

  28. Paul says:

    Read: 2010 will the single greatest year for games ever (or at least in a long time). Mark my words.

    (Although, everything we know, suspect or hope to be coming out in 2010 will probably be delayed until 2011 :D )

  29. JKjoker says:

    @ChaosSmurf: if they start the beta now they might make it to xmas and they already announced it (no date tho)

  30. Dracko says:

    Paul: Yeah, somehow, I’m not seeing retreads and sequels we as of yet know not a whole lot about doing it.

  31. Markoff Chaney says:

    Good news. Last year was horrible with the quantity of AAA titles being released within a month of each other. New baby means little gaming anyway, so that’s double plus on my end.

  32. Dracko says:

    The term AAA is pretty much dead now considering how everyone uses it to describe everything ever.

  33. Thiefsie says:

    Wouldn’t it be hilarious if MW2 was delayed. hahaha

  34. lilgamefreek says:

    I suppose we’ll have to settle for HL2:EP3

    Eh? ;)

  35. Dracko says:

    The pre-order will come in actual crate along with a crowbar to smash it open with and the game will come bundled with a framed apology letter.

  36. negativezr0 says:

    What about Splinter Cell: Conviction, its my most anticipated game for sure(along with L4D2). I have a few console games I hope come out this year, Mass Effect 2 and Assassins Creed mostly.

  37. Jeremy says:

    I can’t blame publishers for not wanting to release a game at the same time as Modern War 2. That game will dominate any and all sales.

    negativezr0, Mass Effect was never planning on getting out by the end of the year. It was always slated for a 2010 release, sorry to ruin more of your Christmas dreams. I’m almost certain AC2 will be a 2010 release as well, guess you’ll just have to hope for some other goodies.

  38. Anthony Damiani says:

    [quote]The term AAA is pretty much dead now considering how everyone uses it to describe everything ever.[/quote]

    I used to think so, but that’s not as much the case now. Between the burgeoning, increasingly sophisticated indy scene, the continued existence of crass mid-budget tie-ins for larger media properties (‘B games”), the expansion of casual, web-based games, and “light” gaming options for portable platforms, I think there are plenty of games that shouldn’t be called AAA. I’ve come to associate the term as being synonymous with “traditional” big studio releases aimed at the core gamer market.

    I mean, Defense Grid: The Awakening or Plants vs Zombies were great games that shouldn’t be lumped into the AAA category. Neither is something like Evony, most of the free-to-play MMOs littering the landscape, or most GBA and iPhone titles. There’s a real difference in the amount of production resources that go into these things.

  39. Jeremy says:

    Everyone stills uses that term to describe everything ever. That’s why it has lost its meaning.. we need to add a 4th A, to classify the new Quad A titles.

  40. kuddles says:

    @Dracko: When you complain about “retreads and sequels” and “mediocre titles heavy on glitz and hype”, and also proclaim your excitement for MW2 and HALO: ODST, you’re trying to be intentionally funny, right?

  41. Dracko says:

    No, I’m dead serious.

    Hate on the best lightgun game ever made and one of the most iconic mechanistically sound shooters ever designed all you want, but the sequel to the former is heading in even bigger directions with bigger ideas and the latter’s expansion pack turns out to be anything but and has ambitions to create a full-scale city under siege as an arena for a paceful FPS (Not to mention the Firefight mode which boils down Halo to its essential game design and that’s pretty much an option all games with recognisably solid game design should provide), which is the sort of thing BioShock and its imitators have failed miserably at creating and should probably take notes, stat. Not that that will happen because while everyone is satisfied taking potshots at Bungie’s products, they’ve never even bothered trying to imitate what makes them work, even when they purport to be Halo-killers.

    Whether these two succeed at their goals is another thing entirely, but they both have exceedingly good pedigrees and are created by teams that know what they’re doing and let the content speak for itself.

  42. DMJ says:

    I hereby patent the term “infinity-A game”, any marketing department which wishes to use it may do so for a nominal (huge) fee.

  43. Dracko says:

    “Instant classic! Game of the decade! A∞+++”

  44. Funky Badger says:

    Halo = meh.

    Big noise because it was the first decent FPS on Xbox. Nothing at all to write home about, although the vechicle sections are fun.

  45. Dracko says:

    Yeah, but I’m talking about Halo 3 and its upcoming expandalone.

    And there was actually a lot to write home about the first one, not least of which was recognisable AI patterns, not just limited to tactics but also as reactions to situations, each different depending on enemy type, wide expansive arenas to play in, weapons with character, building on top of old-school frames and yes, indeed the vehicles. Stuff that no FPS since has decidedly touched upon, for whatever reason, instead ripping off the more obvious – but nonetheless smart – design choices such as rechargeable shields, a key for throwing grenades instantly, a limited inventory, etc.

    I mean, if you want to dismiss it, you may as well dismiss Half-Life² along with it. It’s far from flawless and hasn’t aged all that gracefully either.

  46. TheColonel says:

    NEWSFLASH: Min Sleep release on PC moved to 2045! Surely there’s not much that can delay Left5Dead – they’ve already got all they need except the maps and a bit of coding. When November comes I’ll probably forget all about the rest anyway. Except Mafia 2.

  47. TheColonel says:

    Surely the biggest news is the rumoured cancellation of Max Snooze on the PC? If the new Call of Duty is as deep and engrossing as the last one I might have to rush out as soon as it’s released and buy something else. Please put Grim Fandango on GoG?

  48. Stupoider says:

    Unfortunately, I see the CoD and Halo series being milked for sequels and spin offs for eternity, copy-paste after copy-paste, and in seeing that lost my interest in them. :/ But I loved the first Halo.

    Shame about the delays! I can see the positive side to it, mind, especially Mafia 2. I’d like that to be a great game. :> Maybe I’ll have a chance at getting my computer ready for it.

  49. Dracko says:

    How do you figure?

  50. malkav11 says:

    Frankly, I am almost never going to complain when any game gets pushed back (as opposed to cancelled) unless it’s already just short of vaporware or it gets pushed back -into- the Christmas stampede. I’m always overwhelmed with stuff to play as it is.