ARTICLE: Running Scared

The end of 2018 will be an exciting time for gamers. One landmark game will probably dominate the charts. Can you name it? Read on as I wax lyrical on the subject.

Running Scared

Ah, Q4 (marketing speak for the months October to December), the game publisher’s nirvana. The time of the year where your marketing department campaign comes to an end. All the cross-media targets have been met. Cinema, billboard, and TV spots have been delivered. Now “Granny” and non-game savvy relatives know what to buy “little Timmy” for the gift-giving season. Armed with the knowledge they can stride into their local Game Store, which is replete with more point of sale ads for your AAA tentpole title and purchase your entertainment product. Job done.

But hang on there’s a 300-pound gorilla in the room this season. Yes. Publishers are running to the hills in droves. Why, do you ask? Well, this year is an exception. One title has been announced that puts the fear of god into game publisher’s PR departments. A game that has already been delayed and now has a solid release date. That game is Red Dead Redemption 2. The date to note is the 26th of October 2018.

Big publishers who normally have the first week in November sewn up as their domain has either pushed forward their marque titles or completely abandoned the season. Activision’s Call Of Duty is a perfect example of this. The series has always been unleashed on the first week of the month. This year Black Ops 4 will be available a full month early, on the 12th of October. This is unprecedented for the franchise. For such a heavy hitter to alter its normal release window shows there is some truly exceptional happening later on in the year.

Activision are not the only publishers running scared.  THQ Nordic’s Metro Exodus has been bounced into 2019, along with a host of other big titles such as EA’s Anthem, Days Gone, Shenmue 3, Phoenix Point, Ubisoft’s Skull & Bones and finally (what might be vapourware at the time of writing) Microsoft’s Crackdown 3.

Other notable titles are keeping well clear of the late October schedule in order to maximize sales. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is earmarked for  September. The newly announced Battlefield V is slated for the 16th October. Sony’s latest Spiderman game is due in early September. The only post-October game release of any note is Milestone’s Ride 3. Which could hardly be described as a AAA release

Why all the fuss you ask? Well, pedigree, legacy, product awareness and sheer sales grunt don’t lie. Even the most casual of gamers have heard of Rockstar Games. Their key franchises are known quantities way beyond the normal sphere of gaming. They are landmark entertainment products. The last GTA game has now racked up 95 million sales, a truly astonishing number for a title that was released 5 years ago. Conservative projections for RDR2 have it easy hitting 15 million units by the end of the year. Most companies would be cockahoop with those kinds of returns. End of life predictions has an even scarier 50 Million total. This is also, I feel, a bit of a low bar to reach, given that this time unlike the previous game, the online component will be supported with the full weight of all Rockstar’s global resources.

You may be thinking to yourself this is some Michael Pachter wannabe fluff piece article. Some keyboard warrior’s sad attempt at marketing analysis. You could well be right in your assumption. So let’s have a look at some real numbers in order to underline my theory.

Rockstar has an official Youtube account that makes for some interesting reading, in regards to eyes on product awareness. The viewing count for the latest RDR2 trailer is currently at 24 million. The combined viewership for all three trailers stands at 50 million. In comparison, The Black Ops 4 reveal trailer is at 8.5 million. We are 5 months out from the release date. I am in no doubt that over the next weeks, Rockstar will slowly drip feed more information regarding the title. An E3 showing by either Microsoft or Sony is a sure thing. Both hardware manufacturers will be clambering to make sure you purchase the game on their platform. Perhaps dirty backroom deals have already taken place in order to sway the consumer to go either Playstation or Xbox.

I for one have been putting off getting a current gen system until the release of this product. Rockstar games have always had a special place in my heart. Vast sprawling open world theme parks are my “go to” genre. Given the legacy and sheer quality of previous titles buying into RDR2’s wild west environment is a sure thing for me. Let the bloodshed commence on October the 26th.

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July 2018

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