Considering Rockstar Games' [Register or Login to view links] of an October 16, 2007 release date for [Register or Login to view links] at E3 2006, the company seemed pretty confident they'd hit their mark. In the past, the studio has announced specific release dates and hit them. That streak ends with Grand Theft Auto IV, however, as the next-generation debut slips out of an October timeframe into "spring 2008." In the latest installment of Thinking Out Loud, we've polled the 1UP Network editors for reactions to the delay and what it means for the industry.
Gosh, next-gen development is expensive and time-consuming and difficult? What a shock. Though hardly a surprise, the delay is great news for everyone who isn't Rockstar, since it means smaller franchises will have a little room to stretch. (Now they only have to compete with Halo, Mario, Metroid, etc.) In the long run, that also benefits gamers, since it means great games with less hype (Bioshock, for instance) will probably do better, which in turn encourages publishers to take more risks.
It also means, hopefully, people will pay attention to the precedent set here: it's OK to skip a fall release if your game isn't ready. I'm sure Rockstar could get away with fixing the game via patches, so it's encouraging that they're taking the high road... even to their own detriment. The delay also means Rockstar might actually have time to make sure GTAIV isn't a bug-ridden mess, which would make it a genuine leap forward for the series.
This is highly disappointing news, especially since the GTA games have always been good about hitting release dates. I never thought Rockstar would let this happen. Plus, this kills my dreams of a BioShock, Halo 3, and GTA4 trifecta over the next three months (and it's got to hurt Microsoft more, since that was such a killer lineup). But then again, this fall is so loaded that those extra 70 hours will give me plenty of time to hit all the other games I'd inevitably pass over.
What I'm most worried about is whether the game will actually come out in spring. While next March or April is bad enough, next summer seems like forever from now. From our few demos, the 360 version seemed to be getting close, with mostly framerate issues that needed fixing (though we only saw small portions of the game), so one would hope it'd be sooner than later. But then again, we have never seen the PS3 version in action, which I have a feeling is what's holding things back.
I don't see how this is anything but good news for gamers. As Mario and Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto once said: "A delayed game is eventually good; a bad game is bad forever." It's always baffled me that more high-profile companies don't follow that philosophy. Not that Grand Theft Auto IV was ever going to be "bad," but it may well have turned out subpar had Rockstar rushed to push it out the door in October. Rockstar's had a rough couple of years, but despite parent company Take-Two's financial issues and the recent Manhunt 2 AO-rating debacle, the one thing that's remained is Rockstar's reputation as one of the best developers in the industry -- and that's a reputation they can't afford to lose.
GTA IV's delay only comes as surprise because of repeated confirmations that it would make this holiday season. With the amount of trouble we both hear about and see developers having with cross-platform 360/PS3 development, it shouldn't really be a shock that, at least from what we've seen, one of the most adventurous titles yet shown for this generation would hit a few roadblocks. And it results in a collective sigh of relief from every other publisher with a potentially AAA title in the pipe for this fall. Otherwise, the situation hasn't changed all that much, has it? 360 still gets exclusive downloadable content, regardless of release timing, and whatever influence that has remains unchanged.
But what we really want to know is whether it will actually make the new date or not, right? Once a title starts slipping, especially a big one, that can become a long slide indeed. Some may argue that once it's missed holiday '07 it might as well go to holiday '08, but I think there's a reasonably good chance that one delay will be all we see, and Grand Theft Auto IV arrives just in time for Valentine's Day '08.
The GTA IV delay hurts the PS3 way more than the Xbox 360. With Metal Gear Solid 4 already delayed until next year, the PS3's fall lineup is looking a little lean on triple-A titles, while the 360 still has big -- and exclusive -- stuff like BioShock, Mass Effect, and, of course, Halo 3. And if the GTA IV delay is, as suspected, due to the difficulties of making the game for the 360's limited storage format, then that's a double F' you to Sony, eh?
It's a big shame that the game won't hit this fall -- GTA IV was supposed to be one of the major drivers of next-generation console adoption this year -- but on the bright side, we're going to get a much better game because of it and this will perhaps allow some other titles to really shine when they previously wouldn't have. Whether this affects the PS3 or Xbox 360 more, I can't say, but it does put a big dent in Peter Moore's E3 claim of the Xbox 360 having the greatest holiday lineup ever. And I do feel bad for the Bungie guys who -- had Microsoft known GTA IV wasn't going to hit in October -- might have had an extra month to work on Halo 3 (either way, 4-player co-op is making it in, so I'm happy).
As for what caused the delay, there were reports a few weeks ago about the lack of the Xbox 360 hard drive as a standard giving Rockstar problems and speculation today that development for the PS3 was to blame (wouldn't surprise me, given that we haven't seen that version yet). But no matter the case, it seemed like an overall resources/time issue with having to develop the game for two distinctly different hardware platforms. And I can't say I was that shocked. Having seen the game a few weeks ago, there were quite a few "that's placeholder" or "this'll be tweaked" caveats throughout our demo and I raised concerns with Rockstar as to whether everything could be finished in time. Not that I didn't believe the folks at Rockstar North weren't capable of pulling off some amazing feats in the final stretch of development, but still, we were getting awfully close to October. And it's a freaking big game. On two separate platforms.
Looking back on it now, it was probably a bit premature for Rockstar to nail down a release date for GTA IV 18 months ahead of time. For a game as ambitious as it is -- especially on brand new hardware -- that's a tough thing to have visibility on. Especially for a developer that has had some unique luxury within Take-Two in terms of dictating, and keeping flexible, its own release schedules. But oh, what I would have given to be a fly on the wall when Rockstar had to break the news to Take-Two management.
When Rockstar boldly announced the release date for GTA IV over a year ago, I was already suspicious whether the company could honestly meet those expectations -- and it turns out they haven't. I doubt that decision did not come lightly, as it's going to greatly impact Take-Two's bottom line, but it appears technical constraints may have been at work here. Whether that's due to the PlayStation 3 version falling behind -- the game's only been demo'ed on Xbox 360 -- or difficulties getting the game to run hard drive-less on 360, we don't know, but the game's moving back a number of months, either way.
The industry is the biggest loser in this whole debacle; Halo 3 and GTA IV were to usher in the masses to the next-generation console race. Several of my own friends were waiting for GTA IV before diving in but with that one out of the picture, is that going to be the case? Heck, the longer they wait, the cheaper the price, so why not? On the other hand, a number of new IPs have a chance to shine a little brighter this Fall, but with GTA IV's machine pushing power out of the way, will these games simply languish amidst small user bases? Let's hope not.
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