After nearly two years of anticipation, BioShock: Infinite was finally confirmed for an October 16, 2012 launch back in March. Over the last few months we’ve seen a steady build-up of pre-release marketing materials – including descriptions (and video) of the game’s “Heavy Hitter” baddies.

Now, just when gamers were finally poised to get some tangible answers – Take-Two has announced that BioShock: Infinite has been bumped to next year with a scheduled launch on February 26, 2013. Is the delay the result of needed development tweaks – or a shrewd Take-Two marketing move? The answer: it depends on who you ask.

Shortly after it was revealed that BioShock: Infinite would be bumped into Q1 2013, Irrational Games leading man – and BioShock creator, Ken Levine sent out an official press release to calm frustrated fans as well as quell any speculation that the highly anticipated game was in trouble.

According to Levine:

When we announced the release date of BioShock Infinite in March, we felt pretty good about the timing. Since then, we’ve come to realize that some specific tweaks and improvements will make Infinite into something even more extraordinary. Therefore, to give our talented team the time they need, we’ve decided to move the game’s release to February 26, 2013. We wanted to let our loyal (and very patient!) fans know this as soon as possible.

I won’t kid you: BioShock Infinite is a very big game, and we’re doing things that no one has ever done in a first-person shooter. We had a similar experience with the original BioShock, which was delayed several months as our original ship date drew near. Why? Because the Big Daddies weren’t the Big Daddies you’ve since come to know and love. Because Andrew Ryan’s golf club didn’t have exactly the right swing. Because Rapture needed one more coat of grimy Art Deco.

While plenty of fans will, no doubt be bummed, Levine sums up the whole situation by reiterating the quality of the final product:

Irrational Games is one of those rare developers lucky enough to ask the people who sign the checks: “Hey, can we have a few more of those checks?”

It’s easy to imagine that Take-Two would be willing to give Irrational more time on the game, especially considering how well the original title sold – not to mention the lukewarm response to the title’s follow-up (which wasn’t developed by Levine and Company). As a result, it is important that BioShock: Infinite offers-up the kind of “return to form” experience that fans of the series are anticipating.

Grand Theft Auto 5 Release Spring 2013

Of course, industry analyst Michael Pachter (love him or hate him) has somewhat of a different take on the matter. While he concedes that “It’s […] possible that Ken Levine and Irrational have truly decided to make the greatest game ever, and it will merely take another four months to finish,” he also asserts that the delay could have been the result of a calculated marketing move from Take-Two – who wanted to make room for an October 23rd release of Grand Theft Auto 5. Of course, at this point, any details on a Grand Theft Auto 5 release date is pure speculation.

“It’s entirely possible that the Rockstar team just committed to delivering GTA V on October 23 and Take-Two management thought it imprudent to launch their two biggest games of the year a week apart. I’m sure Irrational will make judicious use of the extra time, if the foregoing scenario is true.”

Not every delay has to spell doom and gloom and Pachter’s comments paint a reasonable picture – where Take-Two approached Irrational and said something along the lines of: “Listen, we know you’re game is going to do well – but what could you do if you had more time? We’re worried that launching BioShock: Infinite next to a title like GTA5 could be harmful for both releases.

While BioShock: Infinite is certainly one of the most anticipated upcoming titles in the industry – it’s not likely to do anywhere near the kind of casual commercial business that Grand Theft Auto 5 will attract. As a result, assuming the speculation is even true, it’s easy to imagine why Irrational Games would actually be encouraged by the move – in order to avoid their own Rockstar showdown (a face-off that left cult-darling Alan Wake pretty bruised when it launched alongside Red Dead Redemption).

While further news on Grand Theft Auto 5 is expected next month at E3 (including a release date – likely in October), Levine asserts that the Irrational team will be skipping the summer trade shows this year to focus on finishing-up BioShock: Infinite. We’ll keep you posted as we hear more on both titles.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further updates on Grand Theft Auto 5 and BioShock: Infinite as well as other movie, TV, and gaming news.

Grand Theft Auto 5 is expected to release sometime in 2012

BioShock: Infinite will now release on February 26, 2013

Source: Irrational Games and CVG