It's beginning. THQ this week became the first game publisher to push back the release dates for titles they've listed as coming sometime in February 2013 or "early 2013."
As part of THQ's second quarter 2013 financial results, the company announced that South Park: The Stick of Truth, Metro: Last Light, and Company of Heroes 2 have all been delayed. The South Park RPG, which was listed as coming on March 5, 2013, has been delayed to a would wide launch in "early fiscal 2014." The fiscal year 2014 begins on October 1, 2013, so it appears The Stick of Truth will be one of THQ's holiday releases next year.
“I believe South Park’s market opportunity is significant. It is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated titles of calendar 2013," said Jason Rubin, THQ president. "It is also an expansive title, encompassing multiple television seasons’ worth of content. We have been working closely with the co-creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, to make sure all of the game’s content performs to the high standards of the TV show, and this takes time. THQ is committed to giving gamers no less than the rich South Park game they have been waiting for and deserve."
The delays for Company of Heroes 2 and Metro: Last Light aren't quite as bad. Both titles are now expected to ship in March, which is only slightly later than their previous release dates.
“When I joined THQ the company made a public commitment to quality titles," said Rubin. "We always expected that in some cases this would mean that more time would be needed to make sure that every title is of the highest possible quality. Our fourth quarter releases are the first titles that I have had the ability to materially impact, and experience told me that the games needed additional development time to be market-ready.
“I firmly believe releasing our fourth quarter titles without extra time for polish in the current environment would lead to underperformance that could in turn lead to future additional capital shortfalls. But extending development schedules in order to make the best possible titles also has financial implications. Yet there can be no doubt which path has the greatest chance of leading to the long-term success of the company. We must follow the course that generates the highest quality games, and will establish THQ as a mark of quality for the consumer."
It's easy to see that dates that early in the year, which nearly every publisher has delayed a title to, are placeholder dates chosen to let investors know those games won't be out for the holiday season. It would not be unexpected to see more delays for "early 2013" titles, such as Tomb Raider and Bioshock: Infinite, in the months to come.