To say that March has been a rough one for PS4 and Wii U owners would be putting it mildly. For Sony fans, the news was quick and to the point: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End will not be making its planned 2015 release date, but instead is targeting a Spring 2016 release.
The decision was not entirely unexpected given the overabundance of delays within the last year, but it was no less disappointing. More importantly, it took one of the PS4’s biggest releases during its early lifespan and pushed it just a little further out of reach.
On the flip side, Wii U owners got a more indirect message: The Legend of Zelda Wii U is hoping to be a big evolution for the franchise, and therefore the development team at Nintendo need extra time with it. At the moment, that means no 2015 release date and no demo at this year’s E3, but like with the PS4 it means no triple-A blockbuster for Wii U.
Granted, both Sony and Nintendo do still have exciting titles planned for the remainder of 2015 (or at least we hope they do), but Uncharted and Zelda were huge tent poles. These were flagship franchises capable of moving console sales at high numbers, which is what any platform manufacturer wants to see after that initial launch. Now, some of that appeal may be lost.
However, things get interesting when one considers that there is a third player in this console war: Microsoft. The Xbox One manufacturer has not been nearly as successful early on as Sony, but Holiday 2014 sales helped the company turn a corner. Moreover, 2015 could be huge for Microsoft, who is now in the driver seat when it comes to big fall releases.
See, while Nintendo and Sony were announcing delays in March, Microsoft was confirming the release date for its own flagship franchise, Halo. Halo 5: Guardians, as we just recently learned, with launch on October 26, 2015 exclusively for Xbox One and it’s going to be huge. Sure, the matchmaking struggles of Halo: The Master Chief Collection may have damaged the brand, but enthusiasm is still very high for Halo 5, especially among casual gamers (i.e. the folks who by new consoles for games not just to own new consoles).
This presents Microsoft a unique opportunity to build on their growing sales in ways that Sony and Nintendo might not be able to. They would have with Uncharted and Zelda, there’s no question about that, but now the appeals of these consoles is slightly diminished, especially among those who were on the fence. Nintendo does have Star Fox (reportedly) on the way, and we doubt Sony will let the fall season go by without a major release (God of War 4?), but Microsoft has a definite system seller coming.
Halo 5 vs. ?
However, potential sales and actual sales are two very different things. Microsoft still needs to keep momentum going, but there’s no denying they have a very distinct advantage…at the moment. Halo 5 may look like the big platform exclusive of fall, ahead of Rise of the Tomb Raider and Star Fox, but that doesn’t mean the multi-platforms can’t steal their thunder too. If Sony positions Destiny’s expansion Comet as a PS4 product that could be enough, or they may have that killer app ready to be announced at E3 2015. We also wouldn’t be surprised to see Fallout 4 get announced and confirmed for 2015, which may take some of the attention away from Halo 5 as well.
There are a lot of ifs, but one thing is clear: all three platform holders are taking some major risks in 2015 and hoping they pay off. Some are willing to let their triple-A exclusives marinate a little longer in the hopes of delivering top quality products, while another is going for the jugular with an ambitious October release date (remember Halo typically launches in November). It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Which platform holder do you think has the best 2015 lineup? Will anything top Halo 5 in terms of sales?