It’s as if a hypnotherapist snapped her fingers and, all at once, publishers around the world were suddenly cured of the dreaded disease known as, “Fallistheonlytimeofyeartoreleasegamesitis.” It’s as difficult to say as it is to type, I assure you. Thankfully, it seems that things might be getting better, at least for a little while.

Recently, we reported that Bioshock Infinite had been delayed until 2013. Then, THQ announced during an earnings call that their much-anticipated South Park RPG, rumored to be titled The Stick of Truth, would be slipping until next year, as well. We’ve also received word of Aliens: Colonial Marines and Tomb Raider joining them and, now, the reboot of Devil May Cry also hitting in January. The obvious question is, “what’s going on here?”

The obvious answer is that publishers are getting smarter about spreading things out to avoid the crowded fall release window. There’s already been some creep outside of the Labor Day to Thanksgiving window that can see as many as eight or ten major releases in a single week. That’s not good for anyone. Last year, Deus Ex Human Revolution did particularly well releasing just a week ahead of the rush. This year, we’re starting to see games inch closer to the beginning of August. It’s smarter to pace things out more evenly throughout the year. With that said, though, I wouldn’t expect this to keep up.

I find it very interesting that we’re seeing these announcements just a few weeks before E3. Microsoft and Sony have been very tight-lipped about their next generation plans, but hints have been trickling out that a new console generation might be upon us sooner than we were originally led to believe. These delays seem to point in that direction. Here’s my reasoning.

Publishers want studios to get moving on next-generation titles as soon as possible. The launch window is typically sparse, which means that gamers will purchase titles for their new systems that they might otherwise pass by. However, that leaves a big gap in releases between now and, if I’m correct, a Fall 2013 coming out party for Microsoft’s and Sony’s new darlings.

Delaying nearly completed, high value titles (of which each of these five most certainly are) until next year provides a cushion. It narrows the lame duck period of the console, while giving publishers something to propel them forward (both financially and in terms of marketing and mindshare) into E3 2013. Sure, the extra time will, no doubt be put to good use perfecting each of these games, but it also means that some members of the teams can be spun off onto new, next-gen projects.

I suspect that word just went out to developers and publishers that the end of this generation is nigh. So many studios “needing more time” and publishers willing to give it is quite remarkable. It wouldn’t be shocking to me in the least to find out that Microsoft and Sony are getting ready to tease us with the first look at next generation in a few weeks in Los Angeles.

 

Michel Futter is the Managing Editor of @RipTen. You can follow him on Twitter @mmmfutter.