So Gear of War 3 has been delayed by six months, crushing my hopes and dreams of playing as Cole Train over the summer. The reason? All because of marketing, and being able to have a big name title at the very end of the year. For a lot of gamers this is pretty awful news, since Microsoft has yet to announce any other big-name title for the end of 2011. But let us assume that Microsoft enjoys money, and let us presume they're not ready to give up on the Xbox quite yet. They've spent a lot of time and money in making Live more worthwhile (to some), and third party sales on the system will definitely help a little bit. If their reason for delaying such a big name title a few months is for marketing purposes, I think it's pretty safe to assume they've got something else up their sleeve. So what's up Microsoft's sleeve?
The most obvious thing that comes to mind is Halo. The franchise may be over for Bungie, but they have stated that the series will be a yearly release from now on, and though Halo games always come out around August there's another massive part of the Halo experience that occurs during the summer months. Beta is something that Halo fans not only expect, but look forward to, and if Microsoft is really planning to win any kind of faith from fans a Halo (series) beta is an absolute necessity. It's how servers can be stress tested, how the major bugs are worked out, and more importantly how many gamers really figure out if they're going to make the purchase.
Taking a look at many the other announced 2011 Microsoft projects, the idea of a Halo beta seems even more clear. Project Draco and Haunt alike are both games clearly meant to promote Natal, and regardless of how well that technology sells any game released for it will isolate a large part of the 360's player base. Microsoft needs a game to satisfy their core FPS crew over the summer, and it's pretty painful to imagine that they would just let third-party developers ride things out solo. As things stand right now, the Xbox has very few exclusives to boast.
A new Halo title of some form would fix that, but there's always a good chance that the game wouldn't be a full fledged title. An expansion pack, similar to ODST, could do a great job of letting fans know that the series is still in good hands. Yearly releases don't necessarily need to coincide with poor quality games.
Then again, Gear's five month push could also mean that another studio is going to step in with a new IP to announce. Both Firebird Studios and Wingnut Interactive have been very silent, though hard at work on unannounced titles. It could be big news if Microsoft is finally looking at tossing these untested developers out into the field for the first time, if anything to compete with Sony's impressive line-up for 2011. I prefer to stay optimistic on the subject because the alternative is really quite horrifying to think about, Xbox could be looking at taking a pretty heavy hit next year, offering virtually no competition against Sony.
So let us just hope that Microsoft is actually looking to surprise us all with a few titles this 2011. Otherwise things may be looking pretty grim for those few exclusively Xbox owners out there. I'm more willing to bet that the moving of Gears has something to do with one of the still-unseen studios that Microsoft keeps in their employ. Like a secret weapon ready to be unleashed upon the world. Otherwise, why are all these silent developers being paid for all these unannounced projects? In the end, the sooner Microsoft lets us know the better. Otherwise there may be a lot of love lost between some devoted console owners, and Microsoft is in no position to give Sony any ground.