Today I would like to rant a little about something that’s been bugging me lately. Look at the picture above – it’s densely filled with „big, important games”. All those titles were released in a span of a mere month. Starting from Anno: Venice in late February and ending with Mount&Blade: Warband in late march. It might seem silly to complain about having too many good games to choose from, but let’s think for a while and consider the situation from perspective that’s outside of our own enjoyment. It’s true that PC games generally sell slower, but more steadily than console ones. Most Xbox 360 games achieve majority of their lifetime sales in first two-three months. Still, even with pc games the first month is still crucial for a success of most games. So why publishers release so many good pc games so close to together? Can’t they spread them out more? I can understand console centric publishers not taking into account the situation of PC market, but what about pc-centric games? Why artificaly create competition for yourself? One that has a chance of severly damaging your sales.
The biggest offender is Ubi Soft. They’ve released Anno: Venice, Silent Hunter 5, Assassins Creed 2 and Settlers 7 in a span of 30 days. That’s almost their whole pc line-up for 2010. All they have left this year are some ports from consoles. Why the hell compete with your own products? Especially since Anno fans consist largely of the people who also find Settlers appealing. Couldn’t they spread out the releases more? Especially since rushed release basically killed Silent Hunter 5 (I will blog about it later on, for now let’s just say this ship was launched with so many holes, it sank to the bottom of the ocean right after leaving the harbor). In April the only pc title Ubi will release is newest Splinter Cell, which was pushed till the end of that month anyway. And after that there’s just R.U.S.E in July and new Prince of Persia and Ghost Recon later this year.
Why put so many pc-centric games on the shelves at the same time? Was Ubi Soft trying to deliver a knock out punch with their DRM scheme? A punch so strong, most people will just grind their teeth and buy those games anyway? I know I did. I can boycott games if I want to. I did it with Modern Warfare 2, I was tempted as hell every time I walked past those shiny boxes in stores, but I resisted. And while I could have managed to do the same easily with Assassins Creed 2, there’s just no way I could miss Settlers and Silent Hunter.
And it’s no the first time things like that are happening. Last year we also had multiple releases close to each other, maybe not as many as this year, but on the other hand they were all strategy games. Once again Ubi acted the same way and competed not only with other big strategy games (Empire: TW, Dawn of War 2, Panzers: Cold War), but also with it’s own games, by releasing PC version of End War and World in Conflict: Soviet Assault around the same time. Oh well, I guess it could be worse, like in 2004, when publishers thought that it would be a great idea to release Rome: Total War, Dawn of War and Kohan: Kings of War to American stores on the same damn day. We know the result, Total War and Dawn of War managed just fine, but Kohan was crushed. The result of it is that TimeGate Studios turned from great company making quirky but awesome RTSes into a team that mostly handles ports to other platforms, add-ons and releases weak.
I’m sure this method provided plenty of entertainment for ancient Romans, but it might not be the wisest choice in modern pcgaming market.
I guess we should be greateful that at least for now we aren’t hearing the complains that it’s all piracy fault. Even if sales for march games will be lower than expected Ubisoft (who was crying the most about piracy) can’t really do anything, considering they are still pretending their DRM system hasn’t been cracked yet.