Snackbar Speculator: Before the fall

February 14, 2010

This week we’re predicting release dates and pondering the closure of the studio that brought us Guitar Hero.

Current Scores:

Andrew Passafiume: 5

Graham Russell: 5

Shawn Vermette: 40

Gran Turismo 5 delayed until fall

Polyphony’s best selling racing sim has met with delay after delay in its slow plod towards a release. Last year Sony finally gave it a release window of Spring 2010, hoping to rely on it to give the PS3 a much needed exclusive to combat the release of Conviction and Alan Wake on the 360. However, rumor has it that it will be delayed yet again and will finally be released this fall.

Andrew: This wouldn’t surprise me much at all. The game has been delayed so many times at this point, and with Sony wanting to spread all of its big first party titles around, I can see it happening. God of War III is the big exclusive for the spring, so Gran Turismo 5 could be one of the big exclusives, if not the big exclusive for the fall. 95%

Graham: I think that Duke Nukem Forever has tainted our judgment a bit on things like this. It’s completely possible that it’ll meet its target…oh, who am I kidding. There’s no firm date yet, so there’s no way such a big title will be hastily scheduled for May or something.  Yeah, it’s slipping, and Sony will have to crack the whip to get it out before winter. 64%

Shawn: I didn’t see much realism in the whole Spring 2010 launch period to begin with. On the other hand, I’m not convinced that this project that has so far failed to ever touch a production milestone will actually come out this year at all. Since this rumor also posits it coming out this year, I’m going to have to lower my prediction certainty a bit. 65%

Halo: Reach to be released September 21, 2010

Sure, it might be a stretch to speculate on a specific date for Halo: Reach right now, when the beta hasn’t even been released yet. However, Halo 3 was released September 25, 2007 and its beta started on May 16. The Halo: Reach beta is starting during the same short time frame, on May 3. Thanks to this and the magic of comparing release schedules, Halo 3: ODST was released September 22, 2009, a release date of September 21, 2010 is not out of the question for Halo: Reach. The question is, are we right or not?

Andrew: I definitely see this happening. ODST sold incredibly well in September with not much competition, so why not release Reach around the same time the following year? But I do consider the fact that ODST did fewer units than Halo 3 did two years prior. Whether that is due to the release date or the fact that ODST was not a fully fledged Halo title is not really certain, so Bungie could try a different launch period.  90%

Graham: So we’re just pulling dates out of the air now? It could be the week after, the week before…heck, they could launch it on a Sunday or something. And you guys are so incredibly certain that it’s the one date, so if it’s any day at all but that one I’ll pull out ahead with such a lead that it’s not even funny? Well that certainly makes my decision easy. 1%

Shawn: Microsoft seems in love with the whole September release date for Halo, having launched Halo 3 and Halo: ODST during that month. Due to that fact, and the fact that games are always released on a Tuesday, there’s a very limited number of possibilities. Therefore I shall go out on a limb and say it is an absolute certainty. 100%

RedOctane closed by Activision

Despite posting a profit for last year, Activision has recently announced layoffs at a number of studios and closed one. Rumor has it though that Activision is closing another studio, RedOctane, founding studio of Guitar Hero. Activision bought RedOctane for $100 million a few years ago and quickly reaped a tenfold profit off of them, announcing a year later they’d made $1 billion in revenues on Guitar Hero. However, the rhythm genre has fallen of rough times during the past year and it sounds as if RedOctane will now be feeling the squeeze as well. Would Activision really close a studio that has been so profitable for them simply because of one down year?

Andrew: I doubt this, I really do. I know they have laid off some people at Radical and Neversoft, but I don’t think they would close an entire studio because of it. RedOctane continues to make profits for Activision based on the peripherals they design and the Guitar Hero license in general, even if the music game industry hasn’t been as successful in 2009 as it has been in prior years. 10%

Graham: I think the key here is that RedOctane is now and has always been a publisher. Sure, they make a few accessories, but they don’t develop games, so they’re pretty much duplicating Activision’s efforts. Closing RedOctane as a separate studio isn’t a sign that they didn’t like their performance, as they can move key personnel into Activision Blizzard’s HQ. Yes, this is happening. Honestly, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. 97%

Shawn:  Unlike Andrew, I find this to be fairly credible. The last few Guitar Hero games did not come from RedOctane, so Activision obviously doesn’t need them in order to produce the actual games. Additionally, rhythm games fell very hard last year. Whether that was a result of market oversaturation or the end of the rhythm game era is yet to be seen, but Activision is playing it safe by only releasing one Guitar Hero game this year. Market conditions and a payroll that is likely pretty high both contribute, I feel, to making this a true rumor. 80%