The Top 7... worst release dates EVER

How poor planning can wreck franchises both big and small

Anyone remember 2000’s “Summer of Adventure,” Square’s season-long deluge of RPGs for the original PlayStation? It housed one of the platforms most beloved titles, Chrono Cross, plus memorable experiments like Vagrant Story and Legend of Mana. Oh and Threads of Fate, some game with two kids on the cover.

Let’s think this through. Cross and Mana were sequels in highly successful franchises. Vagrant Story came from Yasumi Matsuno, the man most known for Final Fantasy Tactics (and later FFXII), so that’s something to work with too. Threads of Fate, on the other hand, had no amazing pedigree to trumpet and launched in the middle of Square’s summer event, when most of us were still playing Vagrant Story, Legend of Mana or hell, Sony’s Legend of Dragoon. Then came Cross in August, right as we finished all the aforementioned games, then Parasite Eve 2, Majora’s Mask and Final Fantasy IX. Threads had no chance at all.

Look at that lineup! Let’s generalize and say these average out to 30 hours a pop. That’s 270 hours of gameplay, most of which comes from franchises you already know – the leftovers get to languish in a creaky old Wal-Mart bin. Despite the middle-child treatment, Threads pulled in decent reviews, including 7.9 from Gamespot, 7.7 from IGN and 9 from the oh-so-important Electric Playground.

Games as kind-of fun as this should have a chance to shine alone, not sandwiched between EIGHT monstrously popular RPGs, five of which were surefire sequel successes. We can only assume this “blast RPGs every month” strategy didn’t work, as Square soon became Square Enix and then a Final Fantasy assembly line.

You’re Sega. You want to bring an ailing franchise back from the brink. How should you do this? First, get some of the key people back together responsible for the much-beloved (and 11-year-old) Saturn original. Second, promise a similar gameplay experience, only now it takes full advantage of Wii’s motion controls, possibly providing the best sense of flight on the platform. Third, make it practically a remake of the game people already love. With all these lofty promises in effect, of course something would go wrong. Guess what it was?

Yep, NiGHTS’s big return was foiled by a baffling release date. It came out on December 18, one week before Christmas, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for parents to swoop in and buy copies as gifts. This date also puts it after the heavily marketed Super Mario Galaxy and Sega’s own Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, both of which target the exact same audience. Galaxy, well, we know how that did (six million sold and counting), and Olympic Games grabbed the numbers we assume were meant for NiGHTS all along (about three and half million).


Above: Not better than Mario

Why would Sega do this to NiGHTS? Did it honestly think he could compete against Mario and Sonic? You don’t revive a dead series by putting it out at the end of the year against two of the world’s most recognizable characters, videogame or otherwise.

The franchise may be dead again, but at least NiGHTS can still be the second or third coolest unlockable character in future Sega games.

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