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In a recent Joystiq article (http://www.joystiq.com/2010/07/02/modnation-racers-top-15-finish-sets-slow-pace-for-may-racing/) it was noted that the NPD numbers
for May show that three high-budget, high-profile, arcade-style racing games (ModNation Racers, Blur and Split/Second)
failed to perform.
It was suggested that the racing genre itself maybe “toxic at the
checkout counter” or that “gamers [may] have simply passed over May's hybrid concepts”
REALLY? Could it not be instead that
racing game fans, faced with the choice between three excellent titles in the
same month, just couldn’t afford to buy all three? (Particularly if they were
also part of the trillion people who bought Red
Dead Redemption in the same
I was certainly interested in all
three, but could only afford to buy one of them (and even if I could have
afforded them financially, I wouldn’t have had enough time to play them all).
Now, if they’d have been released a
month or two apart, then I almost certainly would have bought them all, at
full retail price, without really thinking about it ... as it is, I’ll now wait
the same amount of time and pick up one (or both) of the others at some
appropriately discounted price.
Now, not one of these was a secret,
stealth release – they were all well publicised in advance (and all demoed more
than a year out from eventual release). Would it really have hurt the various
publishers (Sony, Activision, Disney) to actually have talked to each other and
tried to organise some release dates that wouldn’t have crippled each other’s
It’s not as if there are many other
arcade racers coming out any time soon. Sure there’s Need for Speed coming in the autumn, and Gran Turismo 5 (although
that doesn’t exactly count as an arcade racer). But surely even the impending
arrival of those two high-profile releases doesn’t justify launching three
brand-new franchises within the same two-week period. It’s just insane.
Of course such self-sabotaging
release-date hogging is nothing new, and nothing limited to the games industry.
I remember in the summer of 2008
when Speed Racer got completely
trounced at the cinema because it was released at the same time as Iron Man and Indiana Jones 4 ... now maybe Speed
Racer was the weakest of the three (although personally I don’t think so)
but even so, it surely would have done loads better if it had been released in
a quieter time of the year (between a Rom-com and some depressing drama about
But the film companies want their
one-up-man-ship - they want their tent-pole title to knock down the other
tent-pole titles - and as such, one (or more) of the block-busters tanks at the
box office – to no gain, but perhaps some smug-satisfaction on behalf of the
I thought the games industry was
getting smarter. Ten years ago every game seemed to be released at Christmas, and
so only a few survived. That seems to have improved recently, with releases
scattered throughout the year, even in the previously dead summer months. But
this recent NPD racing debacle seems to show that the one-up-man-ship attitude
remains, and self-sabotage in the name of competition remains in the mind-set
of the guys with the release schedules. Crazy fools!
So I ask again - Would it really hurt the big publishers to talk to each
other? To try to organise release dates that, rather than crippling each
other’s sales, or crippling gamers’ wallets – actually ensured a steady stream
of well-spaced great titles throughout the year.