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Game Informer recently reported on some strange developments with Darksiders 2, which raise the question of whether the game is going to be delayed or not.
Many gamers are concerned about Darksiders 2 being cancelled, especially if THQ ends up collapsing. But even without THQ, the game will certainly be released by a new buyer or publisher. If that happens, some of these scenarios would not apply, but I would still expect a new publisher to delay the title. Any publisher large enough to buy THQ/Vigil would likely have more marketing muscle than THQ, and they would want time to put that muscle to work.
But instead of focusing on the negative possibilities (which have been discussed at length), here are the potential benefits of delaying a title like Darksiders 2:
1. The Delay Buzz
Most big games BENEFIT from a couple of delays, because of the increase in attention. Grand Theft Auto is a series that often sees delays, and by the time the game comes out everyone knows it's coming. True, GTA is popular either way, so let's look at a lesser known Rockstar franchise. Red Dead Redemption is the spiritual sequel to a financially disappointing last-gen game. Red Dead say a couple delays near the end (including one final 3-4 week one), and the extra publicity paid off. It was a huge financial success, some even claim that RDR has debunked the myth that cowboy games can't be successful.
There are multiple examples of this process every year. I'm not going to go through a full list (primarily because it's difficult to back up a list like that, since most sites don't save record of delays, just the final release date), but I'm sure every reader can think of some examples in the past few years. You were excited for a game to come out on a specific date, and had to deal with the brief disappointment of a delay.
But stay positive - the extra marketing a delay brings can make your favorite sequel more successful (ensuring that the franchise gets continued support!).
Every time there is a delay, the first response is that every game site and magazine runs stories announcing the delays. Even for lesser known games that don't have much buzz, the delay is still announced, which means more stories about the game (increasing awareness). The second response, is that fans get bummed and complain about how awesome the game is and how much they can't wait for it. As an example - on almost every 'delay' story I have ever seen on GIO, there is at least 1 commentor who says "I hadn't heard of this game, but since you all sound so excited about it I'll check it out." That is the secondary wave of publicity the companies count on.
The short, last-minute delays can sometimes be the best. Red Dead's final delay for example, was so close to the REAL release date that it served as a final reminder to fans the game was coming soon. It was supposed to launch in late April, but got pushed back to mid-May, just enough time to remind buyers it was about to arrive and to mark their calendars.
And this type of hype pays off during the most important time - 1st day and 1st week sales. That's when publishers/developers recoup most of their costs, before price drops and used game sales have taken a hit on their earnings.
There are two exceptions with this, but neither applies to Darksiders 2 (so I still think THQ is being wise). The first is annual mainstays like Call of Duty, Halo, Madden, Assassin's Creed, etc. These franchises are SO routine with their releases that people always know when to watch for them: mid-August is Madden time and mid-November is CoD time. Fans of these games already know exactly which month to prepare for the game, so no delay-buzz is needed.
The second exception is when the game has almost no buzz to begin with. For reasons I still can't understand, 2010's racing title Blur had extremely limited attention (the game is awesome, any arcade racing fan needs to play it). The release got bumped back a few months, but the delay wasn't widely reported (due to the lack of attention). When gamers tried to pick up the title on launch day, they found out the launch date had changed. Of course, that game also suffered the launch faux pas of releasing on the same day as its closest competitor, Split/Second. Both games suffered financially and now both developers are gone as well (which is a travesty).
2. Time for Support Staff
THQ has gone through a lot of transition recently, which includes cutting 240 jobs this year. But that amount is all coming from business and support staff, NOT developers. Which means they have lost some marketing people, sales people, etc.
With that many losses in the business and sales offices, it will take some time for the remaining employees to pick up the slack. Time they might not have before the June 26 release date for Darksiders 2.
Darksiders 1 was popular with fans and most critics, but it wasn't the big financial success THQ needs. Darksiders 2 needs to reach a wider market, bring in new fans, and most importantly, people need to buy it right away. To accomplish any of that, THQ needs to give D2 a lot more marketing weight than D1 had. It will take time and hard-work for the remaining THQ support staff and business staff to pull this off. If they need an extra month to get the word out and get retailers to commit to buying large stock, so be it.
3. Game Polish
In the meantime, while the support staff get in gear and the game gets more buzz, the developers will be working feverishly to make the most of their extra time. What kind of things will they be doing?
They will be doing additional bug-testing, which is huge for an expansive adventure game like Darksiders. We've all heard how important bugs were in last fall's release of Skyrim. Darksiders 2 probably isn't as big a world as Skyrim, but if they don't weed out the bugs the backlash will be worse. Bugs also drive review scores down considerably - The Force Unleashed is an example of a fun action game that got slammed by many critics for the little bugs that slipped through.
They will also be adding polish, something very important to an action game. Getting the flow of the game just right, tweaking combos, and adjusting difficulty or pacing will all turn into a smoother and more enjoyable play experience.
And finally, they might have the chance to ensure those "extra" features get included. We''ve seen Vigil's wishlist of what they wanted to put in Darksiders 1 but couldn't due to time constraints. Many of those features are being rolled into Darksiders 2 instead. But you can be sure there's a list of features for D2 that are on the verge of being cut, depending on time. If an extra month or two gets them into Darksiders 2, instead of being on a wishlist for Darksiders 3, won't we benefit as the players?
There are some solid reasons why a delay would be good for not only THQ, but for the players as well. A delay of a few weeks to at most 2 months would still put Darksiders 2 in the relatively empty summer months. It would still benefit from the additional free time many gamers have during that time period. And for THQ's pocketbook, a few more weeks or months should be sustainable.
But if this gets delayed more than 2 months, I don't see a good outcome. THQ is on the verge, according to some, and they might not last an additional 4-6 months without the profits from Darksiders 2. A delay of that length would also put D2 into the release window of games like Borderlands 2, BioShock Infinite, Halo 4, and the yearly CoD and AC titles.
So Darksiders fans, let's hope that THQ knows what it's doing, and that Vigil makes the most of what time they have left. When the sequel finally launches, I expect we will all be happy with the results. After all, isn't Death the last great adventure?
Delays are good for ensuring a product gets extra polish. So I agree with all of the points you've.
I'm buying Darksiders 2 when the WiiU comes out. That's actually one of the best marketing techniques they have for Darksiders 2, it's a launch title for the WiiU, which means it won't have a lot of competition.
Sorry bro more people have yet to be layed off at THQ segmentnext.com/.../thq-announces-layoffs-at-vigil-relic-warhammer-40kdark-millennium-goes-single-player
Funny thing is I was planning to invest in THQ recently since the stock was so low, and the hype from Darksiders 2 was really building up. But when I saw the news any sort of idea of investing just escaped my mind, I plainly can't support that kind of business practice.
Yea delays don't bather me very much, I'm just excited when games launch.