The Platinum Problem – A Tough Juggling Act
There were four in the bed and the little one said, “Roll over!”, so they all rolled over and Scalebound fell out!
So it’s happened, the first delay of 2015 – Xbox One exclusive Scalebound has slipped into 2017 – and we’re only five days into 2016! To control Drew and his Dragon called Thuban looked to be a treat, and it’s a shame that we won’t be playing it in 2016 and while I won’t indulge in too much chest beating, outside of saying “I told you so!!!” I will now look ahead to what it means for the game, for PlatinumGames, and of course for the Xbox One.
It was only recently (GamesCom 2015) when we last saw Scalebound, the debut of the world first gameplay footage, and it was spectacular viewing. It was wonderful to see Drew and Thuban stomping through the environment and obliterating dozens of enemies, we also saw the reveal of co-operative multiplayer, and while there was no gameplay shown for that feature it was promising none-the-less. So with a year until release, why was I so confident that the game would slip from 2016? There was really only one simple reason; the game didn’t perform well, the biggest issue related to the framerate which was inconsistent to say the least. I don’t have a great eye for framerate, but if I can spot ebbs and flows in the number of frames per second then you know there is an issue. While I’m sure this is not the only issue that Platinum was facing, it would surely have been among the bigger issues the studio was present with.
The game may have also been a victim of an issue that also plagues Telltale Games. In recent years both studios have taken on an enormous workload, and Platinum may be struggling to put games out in a timely fashion due to the sheer number of titles it is working on. I wrote a piece for the last site I worked at in early 2015 discussing how Telltale was failing to properly look after its IP because it was simply juggling too many, resulting in large time gaps between each episodes release – I received quite a lot of support off the back of this post. I feel the same mistake has been made by PlatinumGames with Scalebound being the first major casualty.
Since it released Anarchy Reigns in 2012, Platinum has *mostly* maintained a pattern of releasing two games in a year. One of these tended to be a big AAA title such as Bayonetta 2 while the other was more akin to The Legend of Korra (A critical flop). For a studio that has approximately 200 people working at it (by last count), two games, regardless of the scale of the pair, is quite a lot to handle, and when they consistently have released two games a year for the last three years, eventually something had to give – Scalebound was the unfortunate game this time around. It’s not the first though when you think that they also develop Star Fox Zero which was delayed from 2015 into 2016. Think about their current development pipeline – though at different stages of development, Platinum is working on Scalebound, Star Fox Zero, Nier: Automata and Project Guard; an incredible number of titles for one studio to be working on.
So the big question is, how will this delay impact Platinum, and the Xbox One in the future? Though many are itching for the game, if you’re an Xbox One owner you can be rest assured that you will still have plenty to play in 2016 – I’ll mention Halo Wars 2, Gears of War 4, Quantum Break and Crackdown 3 as just a few of the great titles you are looking forward to over the course of this year. The Xbox One will be just fine in 2016, and the sliding of Scalebound just means that you’ve already got one locked in 2017 blockbuster to go with whatever else Microsoft has in store for next year.
How about PlatinumGames though? Well you can expect that they’ll be just fine too. They’ve been known in the past to have worked on more abstract titles that while critically acclaimed haven’t made the retail splash that they have deserved. Even that trend has changed in recent years with the studio working on mega franchises such as Metal Gear, The Legend of Korra, Transformers and Star Fox. With all the titles they’re presently juggling, it will surely be a blessing in disguise that Scalebound gets more time for the TLC that is surely deserves. The money that the studio has brought in from those licensed games will easily keep them afloat for the foreseeable future.
Scalebound’s delay is hardly surprising but it’s the delay that had to happen and ultimately it will be to the great benefit of the final product. It’s also the first, but not the last game that will find itself falling out of its initially projected 2016 release window. PlatinumGames probably does need to take a look at its development pipeline and pace themselves a little more, but given the quality of the vast majority of their works I do find it hard to question their thought process. Look out for Scalebound in 2017, and expect it to be a Game of the Year contender! It is just a shame we have to wait that long.