Something’s Got to Give on March 29th

Posted January 20th, 2011 at 5:00 pm

As March approaches it is shaping up to be a massive month in terms of new releases, particularly as it relates to sports related titles. Check out the recent poll on which game is generating the most interest. The presence of Fight Night Champion, MLB 11: The Show, and MLB 2K11 dominate early and are followed by Top Spin 4 in the middle of the month.

Then comes March 29th where four games are set to hit the shelves and will find themselves competing with each other (and those others). Tiger Woods 12: The Masters, WWE All-Stars, Nascar 2011: The Game and Shift 2 Unleashed.

Only two of the four games have a direct stake on releasing on that particular date. Given that The Masters is the big draw of Tiger Woods this year it needed to be out prior to the actual event which takes place April 7th-10th. WWE All-Stars certainly wants to take advantage of the lead-up to Wrestlemania which is on April 3rd.

Nascar 2011 was originally scheduled to be out on February 15th before encountering a delay. That original date would have placed it before the Daytona 500 on February 20th. It has missed out on that opportunity due to the delay and placing it at the end of March does not provide any advantage over the weeks beyond then. The best move for a new game that would hope to become a franchise is to give it some more breathing room but going with March 29th suggests Activision may just want to dump the game regardless of how well it will fare.

When Shift 2 was recently announced to have settled on March 29th that really put a wrench into the potential of Nascar 2011. It was one thing having it fight for attention amongst Tiger Woods and WWE, but completely another to have to deal with another racing game. They may be different in theme but ultimately there aren’t many people out there who would buy both. It’s a one or the other proposition even for racing fans. Even more puzzling is that EA would put up one of their games against another (Tiger and Shift 2).

All four games have their own particular built-in audiences. Golf fans may choose to grab Tiger regardless of when it comes out, same with Nascar fans who tend to be especially devoted. Where the tough competition hurts each comes with expanding beyond those dedicated fans to a larger audience. We’ve seen plenty of proof just in the last year that sales are affected by general competition not just direct competition.

Why have these companies gone with March 29th specifically? It is the last release date of the fiscal quarter. That means a move for Nascar or Shift 2 is probably not going to happen.

Should the release schedule stay as is then EA, THQ, and Activision will be accepting the inevitability that one or more (possibly all) of these games are going to deliver disappointing sales results. March is just too jam packed to allow for a breakout hit. Fight Night Champion and MLB 11: The Show are positioned well as established and credible properties but every other game may find itself struggling to establish traction at retailers.