What do Hollywood blockbusters have in common with the number 35 bus? Why, that's easy - you wait an absolute age for one, only for two to turn up at once. Take Armageddon for instance - aka the movie in which Steve Buscemi was exposed to the harsh vacuum of space... no wait, I'm now being told that he looked like that already. Sorry Steve Simply put, Armageddon was all about asteroids crashing into the earth. So, a lot like that other movie from 1998 - Deep Impact. Coincidence? Guess again chums, because these two twins were far from unique. Consider 2014's Hercules vs The Legend of Hercules or Iron Eagle vs Top Gun. How about Olympus Has Fallen vs White House Down? The list goes on.
Indeed, cinematic history is packed tight with examples of oddly analogous movies. But what about gaming? Does the interactive medium boast its fair share of twinned features too? Well let's bloody well hope so - It's going to be an awfully short feature otherwise
Criteria check - To avoid unnecessary confusion over release dates I'm only going to including US release dates.
Overwatch (May 16) & Battleborn (May 16)
Oh poor Gearbox. Poor, poor Gearbox. It's now obviously apparent who has won - and let's face it, it was kind of clear at the time because Blizzard - but why, oh why would you release two brightly-coloured first-person multiplayer shooters within mere weeks of each other? In the months leading up to Battleborn/ Overwatch off, so many characters danced in front of our eyes from both marketing campaigns that we literally had no idea who was from where. It's significantly easier now given that one of them has died a death but Battleborn or Overwatch character quiz, anyone?
It quickly became apparent that only one shooter was ever going to win and Battleborn's problematic technical glitches at launch, uninspiring worlds, lack of any decent feedback in gunplay and messy interface meant that it sunk like a bargain bin scented rock. Meanwhile, Overwatch is, well, Overwatch and has not so quietly taken the esports world by absolute storm. RIP Battleborn.
Infamous (May 09) & Prototype (Jun 09)
Superheroes and sandbox games go together like Gwen Stacy and gravity. When a major player opts to drop one, you'd better believe it's going to be memorable. One part urban strife, six parts spandex - a winning combo by any estimation. Sadly, precious few of these titles actually exist - something to do with the inherent difficulty of coding up 'two' titles at once. A solid superhero game and a sprawling cityscape? One alone should be enough to drive most developers to drink.
Then there's Infamous and Prototype, two games that dared to make good on the promise of that premise. Both titles starred reluctant everymen receiving outrageous new abilities. From there players were encouraged to either go good or be bad - to fight crime or to fuel it. Though broadly similar, both efforts remained different enough to warrant a double dip. That is until they made the mistake of launching some two weeks apart. Perhaps it's only proper that these two superheroes duked it out directly, though it couldn't have done either game's sales a world of good.
Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy (June 04) & Second Sight (Sep 04)
I'll wager there were more groans than at a disappointing orgy the day these two titles first caught wind of one another. Just think of it - one second you're riding high, confident of a unique concept, the next you're reading up on some accidental doppelganger. I suppose it's faintly absurd that two titles based around psychic powers couldn't perceive the other one coming. So much for their vaunted foresight...
With scarcely 10 weeks between releases, Psi-Ops and Second Sight effectively trod on one another's toes. Both had attempted to inject some much-needed variety into the veritable scrum of 3rd person shooters. Sadly, their too-close proximity would quickly put paid to that - making both efforts seem now newly unoriginal.
Blur & Split Second (May 2010)
Attempting to differentiate your game is a tough old ask even at the best of times. Fans and critics alike essentially crave a good frame of reference, be it a basic genre tag or a more specific comparison. "It's a bit like this", or "a whole lot of that" can express in mere seconds what might otherwise take aeons to describe. Now imagine that you're marketing a driving title. Real cars on realistic tracks, all bombing it around at ridiculous speeds. Fun yes, though not exactly varied.
Wisely, both Blur and Split/Second attempted to surmount these issues through the use of nifty gimmicks. The former went all RL Mario Kart - boasting 'car-based combat for grownups', while the latter prized raceway destruction on an enormous scale. Good start. Now if only they hadn't released one week apart and stolen each other's thunder. Every last forking bit of it.
World of Warcraft & EverQuest 2 (Nov 04)
Talk about a pair of heavy hitters. In the red corner, one hotly anticipated sequel to the biggest MMO going. And in the blue, all the might of the Warcraft franchise brought to bear on a burgeoning genre. If ever there was a time to stop WoW from achieving its world domination, then this surely was it. Killed in its infancy, like some sort of mad sci-fi plot to assassinate the Baby Hitler.
The biggest name in MMOs vs the genre's heir apparent. Going toe to toe, with barely two weeks between them. You might say that the stakes were even higher than a spectator at a Columbian forest fire, and youd be right. Both games were good - damn good in fact, each one deserving its fair share of the MMO userbase. The fact that Warcraft was able to not only best its rival in 'single combat', but also claim the vast share of subscribers only adds to considerable legend.
Arabian Magic & Arabian Fight (1992)
Mooching off the movies is a well-established pattern amongst video game developers. Just look at the likes of Contra, a game that disguised its obvious nods/ bloody-minded plagiarism about as well as a knock-off Chinese Disneyland. Oftentimes, tracing the root of these trends is easy enough. After all, Contra appeared just 8 months later than Jim Cameron's Aliens. Coincidence? I think not.
Then there are games like Arabian Magic and Arabian Fight, a pair of solid arcade brawlers bearing eerily similar settings. So, where on earth did their developers get the idea to look to the Middle East - a largely untapped creative avenue, outside of the modern military shooter? Why, that's simple, you say - Disney's Aladdin appeared in the very same year! Except of course that Aladdin hit cinemas after both titles had already debuted. So, either someone smelled money in those early trailers, or three independent studios (including Disney) all decided 1992 was to be the year of Turkish trousers.
Elite: Dangerous (Announced Nov 2012) & Star Citizen (Ann. Sep 2012)
Not a release date this time, but a shared announcement phase. Both Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen opted to take their projects public within just seven weeks of one another. So far, so standard - or so you may think - but what exactly do these intrepid explorers have in common? Well for starters, both games have taken a long dormant genre, i.e. the spaceflight sim and recreated it in MMO form. On top of that, both titles were successfully kickstarted into being, all whilst handily exceeding their original funding targets.
Then there are the creative minds involved. Star Citizen's Chris Roberts created the much-loved Wing Commander series, while Elite's David Braben is practically responsible for the entire genre. So, to recap - that's two giants of the genre, two big-time comebacks and two parallel crowd funding campaigns all unveiled within two months of one another. Too sweet.
Drive Club (Oct 2014) & The Crew (Dec 2014)
Much like the aforementioned Blur and Split/Second, both of these titles bet big on a flashy new gimmick. Call it 'car driving for the social networking age'. Sadly, neither title could quite outdistance the other, running so close together as to create a veritable car crash of confused gamers. In addition, both titles suffered from various network-related glitches, issues that would eventually contribute to a lukewarm critical appraisal.
Despite all this, both games would go on to sell some 2 million copies apiece, not bad at all, especially when you consider that Drive Club only appeared on the PlayStation 4 format.
Unreal Tournament (Nov 99) & Quake 3: Arena (Dec 99)
Two major players both launching within a month of each other? Sounds like franchise suicide. After all, somebody's got to lose. "I know - you'll be Betamax and I'll be VHS. No no no, you be HD DVD and I'll be Blu Ray". At least, that's how you might expect events to unravel. In the case of Unreal Tournament vs. Quake III Arena, neither party saw fit to suffer such a mortal injury. Instead, both games would go on to receive a slew of successful sequels.
It's a bit like that one movie Twins, except in this instance both men grew up to be the Arnold Schwarzanegger variety. So, it's actually a lot like The 6th Day, in which Arnie grows himself a clone. No wait, it's might be more like Junior, wherein the Austrian Oak births himself an Arnie baby. Wait what was I talking about? Oh right, madcap multiplayer shooters. I suppose it's rather ironic that of all the entries on this list, the genre with the most gun happy patrons should agree to live and let live. I guess this town really is big enough for the both of us.
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins (Aug 98) & Metal Gear Solid (Oct 98)
Now, here's an entry you couldnt have seen coming I'll bet it really snuck up on you You might even say that it quietly approached in the dead of night before violently opening your throat. No, wait - that last one doesn't work. But enough hilarity for one moment, let's get back to business. What is it exactly that makes these two titles - set some 500-odd years apart - so similar as to be counted as 'twin releases'?
Well, if we're talking broad strokes here, then plenty. Both Tenchu and Metal Gear Solid marked a brave new foray into the world of 3D stealth-em-ups. Sure, the latter title may have had a solid 2D pedigree behind it, but the genre itself had never really gained any mainstream attention. These are the games that helped change that, debuting within a mere two months of one another. Moreover, the equally important Thief series also launched at around this time, solidifying a whole new genre in the space of around 12 weeks. Not bad.
Retro City Rampage & Hotline Miami (Oct 2012)
It's not every day that an uber violent homage to the 1980s appears. Well, unless that day just so happened to occur within the month of October, 2012. Released within two weeks of one another, Retro City Rampage and Hotline Miami might well have contended for the crown of most 'pixellated blood bath'. Instead Hotline met with enthusiastic reviews, whilst Rampage could only muster up a string of middling appraisals.
A more fitting scrap might've seen the two titles donning animal masks, nabbing a pair of DeLoreans and jousting it out on the sunset strip. A man can dream, cant he? *sigh*