Blizzard has announced that the highly anticipated StarCraft II will be delayed this holiday season, to the first half of 2010. According to Blizzard, the extra time is needed to upgrade the multiplayer network Battle.net, "This extra development time will be critical to help us realize our vision for the service." This is just the latest in a string of announced game delays. But are the game companies delaying to improve game development, or to game the economy?
In the last month, there have been a slew of announcements of high-profile games being delayed from this holiday to 2010: Bioshock 2, Max Payne 3, Red Dead Redemption, Splinter Cell: Conviction, Heavy Rain, and MAG. While game delays are nothing new, that it's happening in such numbers with so many big titles (and others I haven't listed) is unheard of. One may wonder if companies are looking away from the holidays to less crowded release windows to better recoup investments.
Shane Kim, the VP of Strategy for Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment division, doesn't think so, "It has more to do with the development, than it does with trying to time the market and predicting when the recession may not have the same kind of impact that it's had on the overall industry." Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter agrees with both notions, "The delays are primarily to allow time to getting the games up to snuff, so that they will sell better. Of course, the decision to delay is easier if the release window is crowded, as a game with less competition has a better chance of selling."
One company that delayed several of its titles is Ubisoft. In the press release CEO Yves Guillemot stated, "We are disappointed that we have to postpone the release of several major games but we consider that this choice is the best one in the long-term interests of Ubisoft." This press release also stated sales were down 51% in the first quarter of fiscal year 2009, compared to 2008, and expected a 54% decline in the second quarter. Moving such highly anticipated titles may prevent similar declines in FY 2010. Or maybe Ubisoft and others moved games to help improve revenue during the traditionally quieter months of the year.
Whatever the reason companies state for the delays, their titles will benefit from extra development time—and their bottom line will benefit from the possible improvement in America's economy and the gaming industry's sales. But for now, gamers everywhere will just have to be patient and wait to take on the Zerg.