We received the sad news this week that Irrational Games was delaying the release of BioShock Infinite into early 2013. The company wants more time to fine tune the experience and make it as perfect as possible. It’s a respectable and justifiable business decision, even if we have to bite our tongues and shake our fists to admit it.
This news also got us thinking about past games that experienced serious delays yet turned out to be exceptional. The list below was born out of that strenuous brainstorming session. So here are eight games where a delay in release actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Valve has long been known for massive delays with their fan-favorite franchises. Hell, fans have actually tried to request more transparency between them and the company when it comes to details on the next phase of the Half-Life series.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We’re here to talk about Half-Life 2, a title in development for at least five years. Granted, the prolonged development cycle can mostly be attributed to Valve building a completely new engine, Source, from scratch for the project. It also didn’t help that a large chunk of the game’s source code was leaked shortly after being officially unveiled at E3 in 2003.
The combination of perfecting the game’s engine for launch and dealing with the gaping hole in security led Half-Life 2 to be delayed another year, making fans all the more anxious for the title.
Thankfully, the excruciating wait was worth it. Half-Life 2 is widely considered one of the greatest games ever made, on a technical, narrative and gameplay level. It’s a true gem of this industry, with its influence still being felt today. Now imagine if it was rushed to shelves instead? We could have a completely different gaming climate today if that were the case.
Much like BioShock Infinite now, the original BioShock was a game long in development. The title was originally revealed in 2004, yet didn’t see release until mid 2007. It seems Irrational Games loves their 3-year development cycles, huh?
Yet, the prolonged development period didn’t seem to kill enthusiasm for Irrational’s underwater epic. Upon the game’s release, it became an instant classic; now often regarded as one of the greatest games of all time (note: it is my favorite game ever, for the record).
When Irrational needs extra time to get it right, we gladly back off and let them have it. They’ve proven themselves worthy.
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
This entry is included on this list due more to expectation frustration than frustration centered on delays. In August of 2000, Nintendo showed off what would be known as the GameCube with a number of tech demonstrations, including one featuring a realistic Link battling a realistic Ganondorf, both of Legend of Zelda fame (obviously). Many speculated this was to be the GameCube’s first Zelda title and a major step in the right direction for the franchise, catering more to the adult crowd that grew up on the Zelda titles and made them so popular in the first place.
Flash-forward to 2001 at Space World, and Nintendo showed off a completely different Zelda title, one featuring cel-shaded visuals and a more cartoonish, childish version of Link. A lot of fans raged over this stylistic design choice, considering this a major step backwards from how the game looked previously.
However, those willing to give this new look a chance when it released as The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker in 2002 in Japan (and 2003 in North America), found an exceptional video game to be had. The artistic style of Wind Waker was breathtaking, and at its core, the game was definitively the quintessential Zelda experience that we all fell in love with all those years ago. It was a risky choice to make on Nintendo’s part, but one that paid off immensely, earning Wind Waker our vote for the best Zelda game ever (not counting the tedious backtracking fetch quest near the game’s climax).
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
It’s funny to think Eternal Darkness was originally planned for the Nintendo 64.
When the whole N64 thing didn’t pan out, Eternal Darkness was then slotted as a GameCube launch title. It didn’t make that launch window either, partially due to a large portion of the game being reworked following the September 11th attacks (levels set in an Arab world were deemed “too soon” by Nintendo and developer Silicon Knights).
It wasn’t until 2002 that the game finally released for the GameCube, and it wowed the people who actually gave it a shake. Eternal Darkness was a rare gem; a true adult-oriented title that managed to offer a perfect blend of suspense, scares and psychological trauma, while still being a damn good video game at that.
While it’s sad Silicon Knights has never been able to recapture the magic (ahem, Too Human), we at least have Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem to hold onto forever, and ever, and ever…
Grand Theft Auto IV
Grand Theft Auto IV was originally announced back at E3 2006, when Peter Moore, who was Microsoft’s Corporate VP of the Interactive Entertainment Business division at the time, rolled up his sleeve to reveal a mock GTA IV tattoo on his arm, signaling the game’s planned release for Xbox 360. Rockstar was gunning for an October 2007 release.
Unfortunately, neither Rockstar nor their parent company, Take-Two, believed they could hit that mark. GTA IV was then pushed back to April 2008, which is when the game finally did release for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (a PC version followed shortly thereafter in December 2008).
When all was said and done, it took over 3 years, 1000 people and $100 million to create Rockstar’s most ambitious Grand Theft Auto to date (not counting the upcoming GTA V). The extra development time seemed to pay off, though, as GTA IV set two entertainment industry records upon release – best single-day and seven-day totals for a video game (both have been smashed by the Call of Duty juggernaut since).
Clearly it pays to perfect. For what it's worth, GTA IV is our favorite game in the series.
Alan Wake was originally announced as a cutting-edge PC title back in 2005. It was a year later that the game was made an Xbox 360 exclusive. Yet, the game didn’t actually hit shelves until the middle of 2010. We’re typically not too good with numbers, but 5+ years is a long time for a game to be in the works.
But the title didn’t suffer in the long haul in our opinion. We loved Remedy’s Alan Wake; it was an engaging thrill ride with one hell of a strong and delightfully confusing narrative. While the XBLA release Alan Wake’s American Nightmare acted as a decent diversion, we’re still waiting for that full-blown Wake sequel. We don’t care if it takes 10+ years to develop. We need to know the truth behind Thomas Zane and the lake that’s really an ocean, dammit!
Team Fortress 2
Here’s another Valve title on this list, again reinforcing the notion that the company loves to make its fans wait for the hotness.
Team Fortress 2 was originally announced way back in 1998 and was powered by Valve’s GoldSrc engine at the time. Over the course of the following year, TF 2 would see a dramatic shift in gameplay design to represent a more realistic and militaristic experience.
Then, news on the title went completely dark. Team Fortress 2 essentially became a vaporware game for at least six years.
When Team Fortress 2 finally did pop back up, it was sporting a new, more cartoonish coat of paint, thanks to Valve’s Source engine, and gameplay reminiscent of the classic TF experience. This is the version of the game that finally launched in 2007 as part of Valve’s The Orange Box.
And guess what? The painful wait was absolutely worth it. Team Fortress 2 has been a critical and commercial success, even becoming a super successful free-to-play title in June 2011.
The first trickle of information on what would become Team Bondi’s L.A. Noire started back in 2004, when the game was just a PlayStation 3 exclusive “detective thriller.”
But something awful happened between 2005 and 2006. All of a sudden, Sony was out and Rockstar stepped in to pick up the pieces of Team Bondi’s baby. The game was originally slated for a “Fiscal 2008” release under Rockstar, but it wasn’t able to make that launch window. The title was pushed back to the 2009 fiscal year. Shortly thereafter, the game saw another delay to September 2010, a date revealed in an exclusive Game Informer cover story.
Unfortunately, L.A. Noire wasn’t able to save that date either, probably due in large part to the continued work on the MotionScan technology powering the experience and the fact that the game was launching on both PS3 and Xbox 360 now. Months passed by, and outside a few trailers being released, we didn’t get a firm release date besides the ominous “Q1/Q2 2011” time frame.
Eventually, Rockstar’s parent company, Take-Two, gave L.A. Noire a concrete release date of May 17, 2011, which Team Bondi was able to hit. L.A. Noire released to much fanfare and critical praise for its incredible motion capture technology and narrative structure. The game had its problems, but most of them were easy to overlook since the rest of the game was something truly unique amongst an industry oversaturated with shooters.