As 2011 comes to an end, it’s easy to get retrospective. Looking back at the past year in games is an annual pastime of gamers, but it’s also a good time for industry observers like us to play Captain Hindsight, Monday morning quarterback-ing the events of the year and pointing out the errors of developers and publishers. The easiest mistakes to spot come when publishers rush to get their games out before the holiday season - sometimes to the detriment of the game's quality, or sometimes only to see it buried under an avalanche of other, higher-profile releases. Out of all of the games released in the past few months, these five could have benefited the most from a bump out of the holidays into a more open 2012.
Release date: October 25, 2011
Why it should have been delayed: We said on several occasions that Battlefield 3’s multiplayer experience is one of the best of the year – and that’s a year that includes Call of Duty, Gears of War, and plenty of other thrilling multiplayer shooters. We also gave it an 8/10 in our review, declaring that it might be your game of the year, if multiplayer is your focus.
But by going up against Call of Duty, EA and DICE entered into an entirely new battle, and it’s one that they didn’t win. Battlefield 3 gained nothing by going up against Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 except for unfair expectations and comparisons. Since EA decided to put them head-to-head, it became a competition – a war. Suddenly, every element of Battlefield had to be better than every element of Call of Duty, and it simply wasn’t. The multiplayer might be, but the single-player campaign was a disappointment, and that was enough for many to write the game off as a failure. It still sold well, but it likely would have sold much better early in 2012, when Call of Duty players would be getting tired of playing Call of Duty, instead of feverishly looking forward to it.
Release date: November 15, 2011
Why it should have been delayed: Two generations ago, Rayman could go toe-to-toe with most other big-name platformers. Now, the Rayman name doesn’t carry the same weight it used to. Ubisoft knew this, that’s why it slowly pried Rayman out of the Raving Rabbids series until he had absolutely nothing to do with it. Despite this, Ubi still thought it was a good idea to launch a 2D platformer for $60 in the middle of November.
Rayman: Origins' release date rubbed up against every big release. It came out a few days after Skyrim, a few days before Call of Duty, and the same day as Assassin’s Creed, which is also published by Ubisoft. We understand that Ubi can’t really be held accountable for other major publishers throwing their games out around the same time it intended to, but it could at least have made sure that it didn’t release two of its biggest games on the same day. That’s just bad business sense. And despite being an absolutely fantastic game, Origins sold dismally, not even scratching the NPD sales list for November. Discounts may have helped it move a few more units (and you should totally buy it, too, as we explained in our 9/10 review), but we’re not going to be happy when Ubisoft says that it has “no plans for future Rayman games due to the sales of Origins,” which is totally something it is going to say.