Video game release dates are all about marketing. Sure, there’s the whole “the game is finished” thing, but after that, the publishing company has to set up marketing, which includes a long road of pre-order bonuses, trailers, events, and ads. There’s usually a roadmap, which we got a peek at when Mario + Rabbids leaked ahead of E3 last year. But towards the end of the year especially, AAA publishers and small publishers all have to compete for the most prime real estate there is: the holiday shopping season. This is where many delays happen that don’t have anything to do with development issues. When the rare nuclear bomb drops, you can see the aftereffects ripple through the game industry in ways that take months to sort out.
What I’m saying is, Red Dead Redemption 2 has ruined everything.
I speak in jest here, but think about it. Few companies in video games have the presence that Rockstar has. And by few, I mean zero. Nobody on Earth has had the same success. Grand Theft Auto V is still on sales charts, years and years after release. News came out in 2018 that Grand Theft Auto is literally the most successful intellectual property in all of entertainment media. That’s wild. So after a few delays, Red Dead Redemption 2 gained a true release date, and aside from a few regulars, the holiday season for 2018 has been decimated.
Red Dead Redemption 2 has the coveted October 26, 2018 release spot. This is where several heavy-hitters landed last year (or within a few days). Everyone else has adjusted accordingly, causing even games like Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed and Super Smash Bros. to release earlier or later than expected in the year. But more importantly, it caused a tidal wave of games that likely could have been ready to drop by then to run in fear towards 2019.
Look at all the E3 2018 announcements: A ludicrous number of games are set for release in January or February 2019. Previously, these are slow months, with many media releases sent to die (especially in movies, but similarly in games). In recent years, this has changed a little, with big successes such as Horizon, Dying Light, Dragon Ball FighterZ and Resident Evil 7 landing in early months. It already seemed like early in the year has become a fine time to release a few big games, but now Red Dead Redemption 2 has forced a mass exodus, and it isn’t going to be pretty.
Games like Kingdom Hearts III, Anthem, Crackdown 3, Days Gone, and Metro Exodus are all games that were supposed to come out in 2018. All of them were delayed to just past, sometimes without clear reasons why. Now we know, and these aren’t all games that can afford to compete with each other in the span of one or two months either. I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of these titles end up with further delays, just to find a magic spot on the calendar that isn’t too risky.
Overall, this whole issue will likely dissipate into nothingness by March 2019. However, I think it will be an interesting time capsule to look back on. It’s rare that a single release causes such upheaval, but Rockstar is exactly the kind of developer that can pull that off. While Red Dead Redemption 2 will likely be a hell of a game, one that is talked about for years to come, just remember one thing: Red Dead Redemption 2 has ruined everything.