Why are so many games slipping to 2010?

An increasing number of games are slipping into early 2010 - but why?
An increasing number of games are slipping into early 2010 - but why?

Games publishers are increasingly moving the planned releases of numerous 'triple A' games and new IPs (intellectual properties) away from the Christmas holiday 2009 release window into early 2010.

But why?

The reality is that many consumers buying games for Christmas presents tend to plump for the bigger established branded games and franchises like Activision's Call of Duty or EA's FIFA, which are seen as less of a risk-purchase.

Following its E3 announcements from back in June, Nintendo's holiday line-up is pretty much composed of Wii Fit Plus and New Super Mario Bros Wii.

And more recently a number of big hitters such as Splinter Cell, Bayonetta, BioShock 2 and Heavy Rain have already slipped into the early 2010 release window period.

Speaking to Gamesindustry.biz Ubisoft's Michael de Plater, the Creative Director of last year's EndWar also said this week that the Christmas market is particularly "brutal" for new IPs and that "the number of titles coming out in early 2010 is clear evidence of the strong competition games face in the festive run up."

Avoiding franchise 'mis-steps'

Gamesinvestor.com analyst Nick Gibson told TechRadar that the reason for the number of titles now slipping into early 2010 is "largely down to a combination of ever increasing competitive pressure, the complexity of modern console development and the growing financial importance of avoiding franchise mis-steps."

Gibson adds that "a poor sequel can seriously damage the long-term prospects for a franchise and so has a massive opportunity cost".

Piers Harding-Rolls, Senior Analyst and Head of Games over at analysts Screen Digest reminded TechRadar that "last year saw a lot of titles released in the final quarter and this combined with the macro-economic situation resulted in a highly competitive market, where some AAA titles suffered badly due to competition.

"This highlighted a few major issues, namely: publishers have come to realise that competing in the final quarter against certain titles is not always the wisest strategy - delaying titles to a less competitive time in the year is now a legitimate strategy.

"In addition launching games based on original IP in the final quarter is asking for trouble as these titles struggle to make an impression alongside a long list of established big-hitter franchises."

Credit crunch caution

Finally, the credit crunch has caused heightened levels of caution within a number of publishers.

As Harding-Rolls notes, "the poor macro-economic situation compounds the competitive climate - consumers spend less and retailers are taking a risk-free approach to stocking product. As the poor macro-economic situation appears to be continuing, publishers are taking this into account for Christmas 2009."

There were plenty of high quality AAA titles showcased at E3 this year, "evidence that there are a lot in the pipeline" notes the Screen Digest analyst, but added "some of which are likely to suffer from competing at Christmas this year.

"It's therefore not a surprise some have been delayed. Another less strategic reason for a launch delay is the traditional 'game needs more polish' factor, which I'm sure is also relevant to a few delays this year."

Adam Hartley