This fall sees the launch of both Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation and Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified, unequivocally two of PlayStation Vita’s biggest titles to date. Both games aren’t ports, but rather original products made with Sony’s high-powered pocket brick in mind. Made from the ground up, they incorporate a host of PS Vita-specific functions, taking advantage of the handheld’s numerous control input methods and solid online infrastructure – least of all packing some dazzling visuals to boot.
However, there’s something important to note about the timing of their release. Something that may in fact act as a detriment to the success of these high-profile portable games: both are being released day-and-date with the main home console entries, namely Assassin’s Creed III and Call of Duty: Black Ops II, respectively. Is this a wise decision? We think not. To be honest it’s a bloody awful one. The fact is, you’ve got two of the biggest IPs of this generation battling it out for your hard-earned cash in a climate where people aren’t exactly able to splash out on heaps of triple-A software. Not only that, but the release schedule is already packed full of other major sequels and new IP in the run-up to Christmas – consumers are going to be strapped for cash and therefore inherently picky about where they spend.
With that in mind, it doesn’t bode well for a pair of ‘companion’ titles that are releasing on a platform that hasn’t achieved the same market penetration as PlayStation 3. If you’ve got a major console title versus a handheld offering, Joe Average is almost definitely going to pump for the former. In addition, you also have to consider the perception shared by the buying public regarding Liberation and Declassified. All too often are handheld games palmed off as inferior versions of their console cousins regardless whether or not they are actually original projects; and in the case of Liberation and Declassified, chances are they’ll suffer the same fate. Releasing both games simultaneously with the console games only further perpetuates this misconception, and people are likely to think they’re just the watered-down portable versions of ACIII and Black Ops II.
In our mind, Ubisoft and Activision should have waited until a quieter period, preferably after the October/November rush, around December time when things traditionally quieten down before the New Year kicks off. This would have ensured the games would get more attention and would benefit from some aggressive marketing, while the initial hype for the console versions would have waned somewhat.
Both games deserve to nab as much attention as possible, and no one can deny that PS Vita is desperately craving a few heavyweight releases. But pushing Liberation and Black Ops Declassified out the door into a crowded market with the shadow of their console cousins looming over them, we can’t help but feel the publishers have shot themselves in the foot.
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