While I have scarcely a care in the world for the freshly unveiled Outernauts, the first game from Insomniac Click (the developer’s social division), today’s announcement of it has reminded me of the other game in the works at the house that Spyro built. Overstrike was revealed at last year’s E3 conference as their first multiplatform offering and to be published by Electronic Arts. Almost a year has passed since then and very little information has been forthcoming about the title since then. It has, however, held a placeholder timeframe of Summer 2012 and been found on a website purportedly leaking EA’s 2012 release list.
Even the absence of the title from the list presented at the investor relations call that outed a new Dead Space may not hold any water, given that the list was made up primarily of EA’s biggest properties. Further putting forward the idea of a 2012 release is the combination of Insomniac’s tendency to hammer out a new game each year and the fact that the title was first alluded to in May of 2010. All of the evidence points to the same conclusion, but I’m writing to say that it is too late for a 2012 release for Overstrike to be announced and that the companies should hold out until next year to drop it.
Don’t get me wrong, as a proud owner of every Insomniac game available on the PS3, I’m looking forward to this game as much as anyone, but I feel that the wait would be beneficial for everyone involved. You’re probably wondering why, so allow me to explain. The first reason is what should always be paramount to a developer: quality. Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto spoke truly when he said that, “a delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever”. No matter how good the game is now, extra development time can only be a positive for it and this is all the more essential for it being the first time that Insomniac has developed for the Xbox 360. Developer comments from the last five years have proven that it is easier to handle than the PS3, but it is still a very different architecture than the developer is familiar with and this, regardless of the purported ease of the console, is bound to cause problems.
However, I’m more concerned for the future of the development team. They created what is, beyond any doubt, my favourite shooter series in Resistance, but have never really managed to achieve the sales heights that they rightfully deserve. This is, most likely, their reason for expanding their audience but if the game releases at the wrong time, this may not be enough to help them. From my perspective, the most likely scenario is that a release date will be announced at E3 next month, and will likely aim for a three-to-four month gap, making a September or October launch a reality. Historically this has not been a good time for games in the same situation as Overstrike.
As a new IP, people are naturally leery of it. Due to it not being a guaranteed money maker, EA isn’t likely to give it a huge marketing budget, meaning that mainstream players will not be aware of it. It is not a technological feat, nor does the concept excite a great many people, if a look at the responses to a number of headlines related to the game is anything to go by. As such, it will fly well under the radar of many and this is not conducive to high sales figures. Looking back over the past few years and taking the numbers on VGChartz at face value, games like Wet, Brutal Legend, Enslaved: Odyssey To The West, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Vanquish and Driver: San Francisco, have all faced similar issues, been received well by the critics, and failed to make too much of an impact from a sales perspective.
Making things worse is that a number of noteworthy games have already been slated for this release period, arguably more than faced any of those previously mentioned, with Far Cry 3, Borderlands 2, Resident Evil 6 and Dishonored all already being lined up, as well as murmurs of Hitman: Absolution and Tomb Raider as well as Grand Theft Auto V moving into the spot recently vacated by Bioshock Infinite. The competition is stiff enough to drown out just about any smaller title, but Overstrike may be at considerable risk thanks to it being a co-operative based shooter. That particular market isn’t exactly welcoming to new contenders.
Insomniac Games is in danger. Their last few games have underperformed, and although they’re trying to expand, one wrong business move could send them toppling into the abyss and rid the world of one of the last great independent companies. Send the game into the beginning of next year, setting it up as one of those that will alleviate the typical drought period, rather than sending it into the holiday season to be buried under a slew of more renowned games. That is all I ask.