Back in January of this year, we switched on our doom-and-gloom machine and predicted which of 2009’s most anticipated titles would inevitably be pushed back to 2010. We didn’t want to be right. In fact, we spent the next six months wishing, hoping and praying that the industry would prove us wrong.
It didn’t. Every game on that list has now either been delayed, heavily rumored as delayed, publicized so little that we can only assume it’s delayed or, in one special case, cancelled altogether. But that was just the beginning. Over the past few weeks, we’ve watched in horror and guilt as more than a dozen additional titles – including some very heavy hitters we never would’ve predicted – were sent scurrying into the next decade as well.
Here, then, is the damage… the tattered remnants of what 2009 could have been. We’ll mourn each lost game and try to give you some perspective on why the release date had to change. Then, we’ll dry your bitter tears with an optimistic look at the stuff that’s still left.
Previously expected: November 2009
Delayed until: First half of 2010
Why was it pushed? According to Take-Two, BioShock 2’s publisher, the delay was “not related to any specific platform or any specific element…We felt that it was essential to invest the additional time to ensure that this title will deliver what its fans expect and deserve." Expect to hear variations on that vagueness over and over again in this article. Specifics are PR kryptonite.
Unofficially, then? The sequel’s being worked on by at least four different development studios simultaneously. One’s in northern California, one’s in Canada, one’s in Australia and one’s in France. That last team was announced this month, only a couple weeks before the delay was confirmed. If you’re thinking communication, management and organization could be a problem here, you’re thinking the same thing we’re thinking.
Why are we disappointed? Shooters will still be in plentiful supply this holiday, and a few – like Halo 3: ODST and Modern Warfare 2 – could be spectacular. Without BioShock 2, however, where will we turn for bullets and brains? The return to Rapture could be a disastrous letdown, of course, but it could also end up another masterful marriage of action and intellectualism. You don’t see that often in gaming; now you almost definitely won’t see it in 2009.
Previously expected: By the end of October 2009
Delayed until: First half of fiscal 2010 (possibly until April)
Why was it pushed? Officially, the wait is "to allow additional development time for the titles and to maximize their full potential in terms of the quality of the player experience and market performance." Same old shtick, basically.
Considering the sequel was only announced by Rockstar and Take-Two five months ago, however, no one should be too surprised. Even if Red Dead Redemption didn’t come out until February 2010, that would still be a mere year since we (definitely, anyway) learned of its existence.
Why are we disappointed? No shock, then, but a bit of a letdown? Definitely. “GTA in the Wild West” is a phrase that sends our imagination and anticipation into overdrive, to a level of excitement that is only trumped by the phrase “GTA in space.” Although Call of Juarez 2 already proved that this setting can work great on current consoles, we want to see what the open-world pros at Rockstar can get out of horses, six shooters and saloons. Plus, now all we’re getting from the company in late 2009 is a DLC expansion pack, exclusive to one system. Sigh.
Max Payne 3
Another Rockstar special. Another push from “Winter 2009” to 2010. Similar to Red Dead Redemption, though, you can’t be too taken aback. The third entry in this wife-avenging, time-slowing, bullet-dodging franchise was officially revealed just a scant four months ago. There hasn’t even been a real trailer yet. And seriously, the more space between this game and the awful 2008 movie, the better.
To be fair, Take-Two has only pushed Mafia II, Max Payne 3 and Red Dead Redemption into the “first half of fiscal 2010,” which for its financial calendar, translates to anytime between November 2009 and April 2010. Confusing and complicated, we know. So could you still play one of these games very late this year? Maaaaybe… and if you did, we’d guess it’d be this one, which was announced over a year ago and has been looking very pretty ever since. Don’t get your hopes up, though.
Previously expected: Q3 2009
Delayed until: Q1 2010
Why was it pushed? In publisher Ubisoft’s forums, a community developer stated, “After demonstrating the new vision for the game at E3 2009 we won many awards and received a lot of interest from fans and press alike. In order to live up to our own ambitions and your expectations, we strongly feel that giving our teams that extra time will allow us to present a game to you that will fulfill that potential.”
Sounds plausible to us. E3’s Conviction was a very different game from what we’d been shown in the past, with the protagonist, setting and overall gameplay altered dramatically. Major changes like that take time.
Why are we disappointed? Splinter Cell: Conviction was one of the surprise hits at this year’s gaming conference. While the homeless, shaggy-haired Sam Fisher from previous preview appointments was an intriguing experiment, we were relieved to see the secret agent back in familiar territory. Not overly familiar, though… the innovations promised in this iteration had us wondering if Conviction could revolutionize the industry in some small yet significant way. Shame we’ll have to wait a lot longer to find out.
Previously expected: November 2009
Delayed until: January-March 2010
Why was it pushed? If you like reading official company documents, this PDF file made the rounds earlier this month and showed several Ubisoft titles getting the runaround. In this case, Red Steel 2 was bumped from a prestigious November release and punted into Q1 2010, presumably to strengthen the company’s upcoming fiscal year.
Ubi already has a new Ninja Turtles brawler coming to Wii, so maybe moving its other AAA Wii title a few months back is a smart move after all. Then again, what else does the Wii shooter audience have to play this fall? Was this actually a crowded market?
Why are we disappointed? The first Red Steel was a complete disaster, one aided by earnest, forward-looking previews that believed the motion controls would make it the premier third-party launch title. Today we know the controls stunk, the visuals blew and the game as a whole was regrettable.
The second game steps up with a new visual style, new setting and new MotionPlus controls. Sounds like Ubi’s addressing every single quarrel we had with the first game, so naturally we wanted to dive in and see if it can pull this concept back from the brink. Now, thanks to hurr hurr economy durr durr overcrowded season, we’ll have to wait another seven months to find out.
I Am Alive
Details have been scarce on this first person survival game. To be honest, when we’d heard I Am Alive had been delayed along with Splinter Cell and Red Steel, our first reaction was “Wait, I Am Alive… which one is that again?” Hell, we haven’t even been given screenshots of the game yet, so no hearts broken here. If anything, hearing the title again forced us to research the game again… and reminded us exactly how cool the premise of living through a post-apocalyptic Chicago earthquake could be.
Ghost Recon 4
Don’t feel bad. Half the editors in our office didn’t realize this had been announced, either. Well, it was, back in April. And now it’s been delayed. Earth-shattering, right? Right now, we’re less concerned with the game’s release date and more interested in precisely what kind of game it will be. Note that “Advanced Warfighter” has not been added to the title… yet.
Previously expected: Fall 2009
Delayed until: Early 2010
Why was it pushed? “Publishers today realize that it’s not ideal to release a new IP or a new genre just before Christmas. It’s a very crowded place to be, and certain games need more space to live their life.” That’s the co-CEO of Heavy Rain’s development studio, Quantic Dream, in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz.
He’s right – we’re sick of rushing through a dozen huge games in the span of a few holiday weeks, and then surviving on table scraps for the next 8-10 months. By moving to early 2010 to avoid multi-platform competition like Modern Warfare 2 and Guitar Hero 5, however, Heavy Rain just ends up facing off against other PS3 exclusives like God of War III and MAG, the latter of which is also rumored for delay.
Why are we disappointed? Heavy Rain plans to emphasize storytelling and character development above all else, a focus that is sadly missing from most of today’s trigger-happy testosterone porn. A mature film-noir mystery would have been a welcome respite from all the super soldiers shooting each other this fall, even if we had to embrace quick-time events in order to play it.