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Videogames, like movies and music, live and die by their release dates. A smartly planned launch can make a niche product soar to unpredicted heights or cause a long-respected franchise to slip beneath consumers’ radar. You’d think after decades of retail experience we’d stop seeing games like Blacksite: Area 51 pitted against Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4, but every year there’s a perfectly playable game thrown to the wolves.
These are the worst offenders – respectable games released against impossibly popular rivals or, in one case, the one week of the year it shouldn’t have come out.
After PlayStation and Nintendo 64 took hold in the mid-‘90s, all the franchise greats, from Mario to Final Fantasy to Metal Gear, ditched 2D side-scrolling and embraced the third dimension, insuring their continued positions as top dogs of the industry. Castlevania, on the other hand, stumbled through two ho-hum N64 attempts, then kinda got it right with 2003’s Lament of Innocence. With this sort-of-okay game on the table, 2005’s Curse of Darkness was poised to finally deliver the 3D experience the series desperately needed.
But for some reason Konami released it a matter of weeks after the vastly superior (and 2D) Dawn of Sorrow, which turned out to be one of the highest rated games in the Castlevania series. Curse, on the other hand, was a middle of the road title that didn’t approach the magnificence of the technologically inferior 2D games on GBA and DS.
Above: While Dawn stood tall on DS, Curse blended in with every other console hack-and-slasher
With the Castlevania thirst already quenched, and the 2D games consistently receiving amazing scores, Curse of Darkness fell by the wayside and to this day remains the last 3D Castlevania adventure. It also had to fend off better titles that appealed to roughly the same audience, like Shadow of the Colossus, Dragon Quest VIII and the entire Xbox 360 launch blitz.
If they’d waited a few months, maybe put it out in Feb or March ’06 to further distance itself from Dawn of Sorrow, Curse might have stood out. Instead it completely disappeared in a sea of more interesting options.
Hey, Resistance 2 is a fine game. If you’re a PS3-only gamer, you’re probably already plowing through it, collecting all 20 hidden briefcases and hopping online for some 60-player alien bashing. But, in the immortal words of Danny Devito’s Penguin... “You don’t really think you’ll win, do you?”
Above: Resistance performed well, but the Penguin don’t lie
The first Resistance was no slouch, but look at those numbers – Gears became Microsoft’s No-Halo backup plan, assuring financial success with the supercharged Gears 2, which was launched just three days after the less attention-seeking Resistance 2. Which do you think will get more ads in magazines and TV, more face time with internet outlets, more overall hype and word of mouth? Gears 2, of course.
More importantly, which is going to sell systems right now? If you own neither, what’re the odds you’re leaning towards Resistance over Gears? Maybe it’s 50/50, you learned gamers you, but consider Average Gamer, who sees two options: Resistance 2 or GEARS2OMFGCHAINSAAAAAAWS! It’s got nothing to do with quality; it’s all about presence, and Gears has got Resistance beat.
Imagine launching Far Cry 2 against Call of Duty: World at War – both are excellent games and will sell fine, but gamers who can only buy one are almost guaranteed to go with the moneymaker. As with Curse of Darkness, saving this for a less confrontational match might have raised Resistance’s profile beyond what the unopposed first game carved out against the then-new Gears of War. Launching when it did, it also has to fight off BioShock and CoD:WAW, two FPSes that are already belting their siren song to PS3 owners.