Bandai Namco was smart to delay Project CARS

I quite like a good horror game, and this month I’ve been spoilt for choice.

There’s been Sega’s terrifying Alien Isolation and Bethesda’s The Evil Within, which marked the return of Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami to the genre he created.

Thankfully I have been saving up my trade-in credit just for such an occasion. Because Sega and Bethesda launched these games within a week of each other, and at 100 for both, that’s no pocket change.

And although it’s not unusual for blockbuster movies to arrive side-by-side, the investment required in games – both in terms of money and time – is significant.

Without knowing their internal expectations, it’s difficult to say whether Alien Isolation or The Evil Within were successful for their publishers. But it’s a niche genre with a cult audience, and there will certainly be a few that have had to make the choice over which game to buy.

If you look through the history of games, you’ll discover numerous examples of titles that launched next to each other to ill effect. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve asked publishers about their competition, to receive the same stock response about ‘different audiences’. If it’s Pokmon versus Far Cry 4, then yes, I agree, those are non-competing markets. But if you’re launching a game aimed at 18 to 34 year-old men – whether that’s a hack and slash title or a first person shooter – you are competing, and risking sales.

I recall the battle of the racers in May 2010. It was Disney’s Split/Second against Activision’s Blur. Both titles designed to be new racing franchises. And the critics loved them both, almost equally according to Metacritic.

They failed badly. To the extent that both developers behind the games were closed within the year.

You may assume the competition between the two racers was the reason, but it wasn’t just that. Red Dead Redemption also launched that month, and that was another major rival to those two titles.

It baffled me somewhat that so many publishers were launching big new racing games this Q4. Perhaps it was just coincidence, or maybe EA’s decision to not launch a Need for Speed game inspired them, but there were five significant racing releases due over the space of two months. Big sequels such as F1 2014 and Forza Horizon 2 is joined of new IP, Ubisoft’s The Crew, Sony’s DriveClub and Bandai Namco’s Project CARS.

So well done Bandai Namco for not only delaying Project CARS, but for not being too proud to admit it was to give the game more of a chance. I feared for it, I really did. Not for its quality – the studio behind it is highly capable and the previews have been positive – but let’s face it, it was going up against big games with big marketing budgets. Just how big is the racing genre on next-gen this Christmas? 400,000 units? Half a million if we’re lucky? How much of that would have been Project CARS?

It’s no shame at all to hold your hands up, give up and walk (or drive) away. Survive to fight another time. There’s plenty of other days in the year, and if the success of Watch Dogs and the otherwise sparse release schedule of 2014 has been anything to go by, there are tonnes of other weeks and months where your audience will have the time and money to invest in your product. Go on. Do a Bandai Namco and try it.

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