Between the delay of Batman: Arkham Knight and today's Witcher 3 release announcement serving as a reminder of its own delay, this has been a tough week for 2014. This holiday season certainly seems to be a slow start for the first full year of the new console generation. But while the release calendar is looking much thinner than it once did, it's not entirely a wash. We might just need to savor the games we get a little more than usual.
The most dire spot on the release calendar is, as usual, the summer. E3 may kick off the season with loads of game announcements, but you might need to read more books or catch up on TV series to get you through the dog days. In June we'll get Valiant Hearts, Ubisoft's World War 1 epic told through the UbiArt framework. August will give us the annual release of Madden as usual. The space between is a veritable No Man's Land for big-name releases.
Microsoft might surprise us with a solid Summer of Arcade, and we're sure to see plenty of indie games releasing at a steady pace, but larger publishers seem to have left these months as barren and dusty as Death Valley in July.
As we head into the fall releases start to pick up considerably. Destiny is Activision's big gamble with the studio behind the popular Halo series, and the combination of those two titans is likely to keep the hardcore crowd happy. For more casual (and musical) gamers, Square Enix will be releasing Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call.
If you have children (or, let's be honest, if you're a grown man who reads comics and collects figurines), you'll have Disney Infinity 2.0 to look forward to. It adds Marvel characters to the mix, with some pretty slick stylized designs of the Avengers and hints of further figures to tie into properties like the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy. This isn't set in stone for this month, as different reports have stated both August and September, but at the very least it seems likely you'll be throwing down with Cap and Hulk sometime around here.
Always a popular time for releases, this October is easily going to be the busiest of the year, with games slated to appeal to just about every flavor of game fandom.
For those who want shooters, we now know Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel will be coming to gather loot with your co-op buddies. Meanwhile, Evolve promises to offer a more asynchronous, competitive experience. Dragon Age Inquisition will add a little action-based RPG to the mix, while Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor releases on the very same day with RPG-inspired action.
For the kids or young at heart, Skylanders Trap Team is on its way in October. Though a release hasn't been announced, Double Fine's Costume Quest 2 must be coming in October to make sense of its Halloween theme.
With the industry flooding October, November is significantly quieter than usual. This month is usually the home to the last few releases before the shopping madness of Black Friday, and this year most publishers just don't seem to want to cut it that close. As a result, we only know of a few big releases. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Far Cry 4 are coming to scratch the shooter itch, and Pokemon Alpha Ruby and Omega Sapphire will hit 3DS. Other than that, the month is pretty bare.
On the other hand...
Knowns and Unknowns
Take heart. The calendar looks a little empty right now, but we do have E3 to look forward to. With it come some opportunities for more surprises.
For one thing, Nintendo has barely said anything about its line-up. We know Smash Bros is coming to 3DS this summer, and sometime later for Wii U. Given that the Wii U version will be playable at E3, it could well be a holiday release. Nintendo also tends to keep its games on fairly short promotional schedules, so it's a fair bet that at least one or two games it shows at E3 will be available before we ring in 2015.
Meanwhile, we're guaranteed to see more Assassin's Creed this year from Ubisoft. The company was already forced to acknowledge its new-gen game Assassin's Creed Unity. The same leak that provided that info also suggested a second game in the works, for last-gen systems, code-named Comet. Also from Ubisoft, The Crew has long been slated for 2014.
Microsoft will be bringing Forza Horizon 2 this fall as well, just in case The Crew and Driveclub weren't enough to sate your inner speed demon. Finally, Visceral's Battlefield Hardline will be giving us a high-tech version of cops and robbers.
If this year seems empty, it may be only because the last few years have been such an embarrassment of riches. As developers grew more adept at console hardware that was nearing a decade old, and developed PC games to match as multiplatform, the process was simple and refined. Developers are starting over, and however easy Microsoft and Sony may have made it for them, it's still a learning process. Even with the slimmed down calendar, there's still plenty to look forward to. And hey, maybe we'll finally catch up with House of Cards too.