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Opinion: Why The Duke Nukem Forever Delay Makes Sense

Opinion: Why The Duke Nukem Forever Delay Makes Sense

March 25, 2011 | By Chris Morris

[In this opinion piece, Gamasutra editor-at-large Chris Morris discusses why the latest delay to Gearbox's Duke Nukem Forever is actually a good thing, with other upcoming gaming releases taken into account.]

Given the game's long, dubious history, the latest delay of Duke Nukem Forever shouldn't have come as a shock to anyone.

It's certainly not a long one, by Duke standards. And while some doubters in gaming forums across the internet have seized on this as a chance to say "I told you so!," most fans and developers have barely blinked at the news, except perhaps to tip their hats at the clever way Gearbox announced the news.

But the ironic part of this delay is that it's probably the best thing that could happen to the game.

Sure, no title ever suffers from a little extra polish time, but that's not where the real advantage lies here. By moving DNF to June, Gearbox and 2K Games are getting it out of the way of a very crowded month, where it potentially could have been overwhelmed by competition.

In the action category alone, May is fairly packed with Bethesda's Brink, Warner Bros.' F.E.A.R. 3 and THQ's Red Faction: Armageddon scheduled to ship. Also on the calendar are LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, Dirt 3, Dungeon Siege III and Hunted: Demon's Forge.

But the 500 lb gorilla, of course, is Rockstar's L.A. Noire due out May 17. Like last year's Red Dead Redemption, the game is something of an unknown. It's a new franchise, which normally wouldn't be cause for concern, but with the Rockstar name attached to it, it could quickly devour anything in its path, including any previously released titles that are showing momentum " like Duke Nukem Forever.

L.A. Noire is different than Red Dead in one key aspect, though: It is solely a single player experience. By not having a multiplayer component, a one month gap between releases lets core players explore and complete L.A. Noire before turning their sights on Duke Nukem Forever, which comes with a complete, if controversial, multiplayer component.

Conversely, the delay also protects Take-Two, should DNF become this year's breakout hit. With the potential that its multiplayer element keeps players tuned to Duke, the company doesn't have to worry that the long-in-production (and incredibly expensive) L.A. Noire might be ignored.

The most curious part of this week's announcement is actually the flip-flopping of which players get to see the game first. Initially, U.S. gamers were set to get first crack at Duke Nukem Forever, but now international audiences will see the game four days before Stateside players.

That could be a dangerous move. A four-day window is plenty of time for pirates to upload the game to torrent sites. (Hell, it will likely happen long before the official release date.)

People who prefer to steal their games are going to do it regardless. But will Duke fans, who have been waiting for over a dozen years to play the game, be willing to sit on their hands when others are exploring the world of Pigcops and Octabrains? It's a question no one can honestly answer.

Gearbox isn't talking about the piracy fears, but as to the reversal of who sees the game first, it says "We have a commitment to our fans to get the game out as early as possible and every day counts. New games are available on Tuesday in North America so we’re getting the game out as early as possible in this territory."

"The international markets do not adhere to this release timing, and it just happens that they will be able to release the game a few days before North America. We don't want to hold it back, we want to get it into the hands of consumers as soon as possible."

As for the reasons behind the delay, Gearbox isn't talking much about that either, aside from the expected references to "polishing." But the company can't be overjoyed with the announcement. As far back as last year's PAX, when Gearbox surprised fans with news that the franchise was alive once more, it had a ship date in mind " and wavered on whether to announce it at the show.

It opted not to, realizing that if the date slipped, fans might lose faith. Thursday, it found itself in the exact situation it had hoped to avoid.

Duke loyalists seem to be sticking with the company, though some of them are doing so with a heavy dose of humor.

"It merely says 'June 14' on the poster. They didn't give a year..," noted commenter 'xeropulse' on Shacknews.

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