So yesterday it was announced that Mass Effect 3 would be pushed back to Q1 2012, and there was much sadness across the interwebs. But there was also an audible sigh of relief from some quarters, particularly here. You see, we suspect that a delay means good things not just for this third instalment in the series but for us gamers too. An uncluttered calendar is a happy calendar! Here are a few reasons why we think it's not such a bad thing after all...
A Q1 Release Worked Fine For ME2
The winter end of the year is traditionally a cluttered deck of big hitters, with November heralding that year's Call of Duty title, and publishers lining their products up for the Christmas frenzy. But EA and BioWare decided against such a ploy with Mass Effect 2, and the thing shipped 2 million copies in its first week! Not too shabby, eh? It's a trend we've already seen this year, with the tail-end of winter and early spring stuffed with big names and hyped titles: Bulletstorm, Dead Space 2, Portal 2, and Crysis 2 to name a few (all EA-related in some way, interestingly) and Brink and L.A. Noire just around the corner.
Moreover, it's not like the early release means anyone forgets about them when it comes to the GOTY awards that spread like wildfire across the internet. Au contraire, X-Play, IGN and BAFTA all recognised Mass Effect 2 as the game of 2010. Looking at that mini-list above (and we've omitted Fight Name Champion and Shift Unleashed 2, which weren't exactly unassuming titles) it looks like EA are going for a big push to take over that early chunk of the year and appeal to gamers flush with cash from Santa's bounty. We'd say it's working for them.
Time To Play Skyrim And Enjoy Christmas
On a personal level, the delay will hopefully allow me (and I won't be alone in this) more time to get to grips with the latest instalment in the Elder Scrolls series: Skyrim. I've sunk innumerable hours into the always-sprawling, always-engaging, always-buggy behemoths that are Bethesda's RPGs and I expect this to be no different. Quite frankly, I find cluttered games release schedules to be terribly inconsiderate on us gamers. Games are expensive, and so when several games (and I mean games that one has yearned for) drop at once, first comes the terrifying, debilitating indecision: which one should I buy first? Of course, sometimes you just just throw caution to the wind, buy all five at once and live on beans while you seal yourself off from the rest of the world.
Alternatively, you could enjoy the snow (if there is any), make some video game related snowmen and send them in to us. Get into the Yuletide spirit, drink a shedload of mulled wine and pass out in an armchair after a fat roast, or play the Wii/Kinect/PS Move with your folks and give them a trouncing at whatever casual party game you choose.
Or Skyrim...probably Skyrim.
More Time Might Mean A Better Product
Of course, Mass Effect 3 is a big game, huge even. After the successes of the first two instalments, there's a lot riding on this. But you get the feeling that Microsoft stayed out of development on the first game (thank god!) and there's the creeping sense of unease that this whole EA Partners deal is perhaps providing pressure where it should. Dragon Age: Origins was not a perfect game, but it was a very good RPG and, although its appearance was relatively drab, it at least offered the player an epic world to inhabit, labyrinthine dungeons and glorious loot. It's sequel, acknowledged by those who worked on it to be a rush-job, was not a bad game by normal standards. But by BioWare's standards, the standards by which we judge the studio - standards provided by their own creative precedent - it was pretty dire.
If Mass Effect 2 provoked niggling fears in some quarters that BioWare had 'sold out' in some fashion, Dragon Age II was a hefty fan to those flickering flames, and thus it is that news of Mass Effect 3's delay has been met with much jubilant affirmation and sage nodding across the social networks and forums. I'm a big BioWare fan, even Mass Effect 2 - shying away as it did from its RPG roots - was still a hugely engrossing, engaging and exhilarating experience, because time was spent on it. The delay is a good thing, it conjures images of BioWare's finest standing up to their publisher oppressors partners and telling them that they need more time. Hopefully.
One thing we don't want to see is studios like BioWare losing their sense of identity and concerns over creative quality in relationships like these...
...though today's news regarding EA's desire to make the Mass Effect 3 more appealling to a wider audience is disturbing. Mainly because it came from Riccitiello, not Hudson or Muzyka.
Didn't hey already do that with Mass Effect 2?Is it multiplayer? Is this 'tweaking' going back on the words we clung onto like a liferaft when they said that RPG elements would be coming back? Will it just be Gears of War In Space?
Shit...I'm still worried.