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Was Saints Row: The Third Released Too Soon?

Saints Row: The Third is releasing today, and many are arguing that the publisher, THQ, is doing the game a disservice by trying to squeeze it in amidst a plethora of big releases like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

While the competition mentioned above is steeper than the tallest peak in Skyrim, there are a few reasons why these claims are little more than white noise.  First of all, the biggest shopping day of the year is a mere 10 days away.  Black Friday is enormous for the video game industry and retail in general, regularly seeing the highest movement of merchandise in any given year.  If you were a publisher, would you be willing to sacrifice this momentous day just so you didn’t have to compete as much with other big name titles? 

November and December are the biggest months for game sales, and every year they are crowded with huge titles.  Would THQ be making the right decision releasing Saints Row: The Third instead in mid-December, when everyone except the procrastinators have already finished their holiday shopping?  It’s simply too big of a market share to risk missing out because of fear.

I would have more of a gripe with THQ choosing this release date if it seemed there wasn’t much effort put into advertising the game.  Howeever, over the past two weeks, I have seen an equal if not greater number of Saints Row: The Third commercials on television and online as I have for Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, and Skyrim individually.  The advertising team behind Saints Row: The Third sprung for its own booth at both E3 and Gamescom as well.  It’s clear that a lot of effort and money was put into advertising the game, which I think will definitely help it compete with the other titles releasing in close proximity to it.

Ultimately, with respect to Saints Row: The Third, the sales numbers only need to reflect what THQ and developer Volition consider a success.  According to THQ CEO Brian Farrell, the game has already quadrupled the number of pre-orders that Saints Row 2 had two weeks prior to its release.  THQ anticipates that the game will ship 3 million units by March 2012, which most in the industry would consider a successful title.  Would Saints Row: The Third ship that many units if it wasn’t released until January?  Probably not, but who can know for sure?  Unlike in video games, there is no alternate universe in which this can be tested. 


Also, is is there any game being released this holiday that’s more conceptually and purposefully ridiculous than Saints Row: The Third?  If there’s one model that we know thrives, it’s the open-world, do anything you want model that Grand Theft Auto III pioneered.  Well, Saints Row is exactly that type of game and is already being very well-received by the media for its over-the-top action, self-aware sense of humor, and co-op multiplayer.  While not every well-reviewed game sells well, games that are just plain fun like Saints Row: The Third inevitably do.  Will the game take a hit from competing with all these other titles?  In all likelihood, the answer is yes. But will the hit account for more lost sales than waiting another month or two to release it would?  I doubt it.


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