If a game is done, why not ship it? The answer to that question is complicated; choosing the right release date for a game, to ensure the best chance of success, is a mixture of planning and luck. It's why the developers behind The Fall Part 2, a sci-fi sequel in development for more than three years, are purposely delaying their game by several months, even though it's practically done. The developers were surprisingly frank, while updating their fans today.
"The Fall Part 2 is basically done, and it plays, looks, and sound great," said director John Warner in a video announcing the delay today.
Here's what's interesting. The Fall Part 2 was supposed to be out right around now, but the last stretch of polish requires a few more week of work. Those few weeks, however, mean The Fall Part 2 would be coming out right as the gaming season is heating up with this year's biggest releases: Super Mario Odyssey, Shadow of War, Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, etc. Once the end of October hits, there's a steady stream of games every week.
"That puts us into the main release window for the AAA industry," said Warner, "which is suicide for an indie. For that reason, we've decided to take some extra time to make sure the build is really solid, get a proper marketing campaign together, and probably launch in the first week of 2018."
Essentially, Warner and company decided October, November, and December were busy enough that The Fall Part 2 risked being overlooked. The Fall Part 2 is not the first game to be delayed because a developer was worried another one would cannibalize sales, but it's rare for a developer to admit it.
(While I can't guarantee The Fall Part 2 will be any good, the original game is one of my favorite sci-fi stories, games or otherwise, in recent memory. It's recommended.)
The decision to move the game back, Warner told me, came from his public relations team.
"I have to trust their judgement," said Warner, "so that I can spend my time working with my head down, which I prefer to do anyway. That said, it was an easy thing for me to agree with, because it coincides with my experience in the AAA industry, and as a consumer. Near the end of the year, all the larger companies start getting their Game of the Year candidates ready for release, and reviewers get bombarded with lots of high budget games."
He's right, of course. Bigger games drive the most traffic, and while I can tell you from personal experience that plenty of gaming writers and reporters would like to spend more time with independent productions, running a website means you're running a business, too. It's a delicate, day-day balance.
And that's what Warner is doing, too: running a business.
"When we first launched," he said, "nobody knew who we were or had any reason to care, and trying to get press attention on launch felt a little bit like shouting in an empty room—and I don't blame anyone. There are six trillion indie games released every second. Why would anyone care about us? My default strategy is to assume that nobody cares and we'll have to fight for what we get. If something better happens I'll be pleasantly surprised."
The response from The Fall fans seems, so far, muted—in a good way. The kinds of people who are closely following The Fall Part 2's development are super fans, invested in the game becoming a success so others might experience what they've been championing for several years now.
For Warner, the point of being upfront and honest about the delay was "integrity."
"I think most people are understanding," he said, "and as long as you haven't been downright irresponsible, they'll be supportive, and even defend you against the people who aren't. Being vulnerable is a real gift to people (provided you're not oversharing) because it shows that you respect them (as long as you actually do) and I think people tend to respect that and even feel thankful for it."
The Fall Part 2 is currently scheduled for a release in early February.