This time of year is supposed to be a celebration. It’s a time when months of hype finally result in a game in your hands, when every week brings with it a glut of high-quality releases. Publishers have long loved the last three months of the year, and we’ve always understood. For them, it’s the best slot on the calendar to release games. For us, it’s the best time to play them.
Until this year, anyway. With Drive Club and Halo: The Master Chief Collection, the back end of 2014 has shown that Q4 is now too important to many publishers to miss, with technical quality a secondary consideration. This month yields yet another entrant to this hall of shame in Assassin’s Creed Unity (p108). It has ambition, scale and great potential, then undermines them all because neither the release schedule nor the accounts department could tolerate a delay. Nintendo would never sacrifice quality, although its decision to delay the European release of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (p114) into 2015 caused no little disappointment. This, again, was a business decision. Nintendo would prefer you to focus your attention and your disposable income on Super Smash Bros For Wii U (p112). Again, it’s understandable, especially given that Nintendo can’t rely on third-parties to fill out Wii U’s release schedule any more. But equally, it only underscores the fact that the executive in the suit is more important than the person with the controller. Any hardened suit would surely condemn This War Of Mine (p118) to failure. A bleak WWII survival sim from an unknown Polish studio has no business succeeding in the busiest months of the year. Yet 11 Bit Studio’s game shot up the Steam charts at launch, and is one of our favourite games of 2014. It’s a much-needed reminder that quality can still sometimes triumph over marketing.