After the news broke earlier today, I found myself flooded with messages on social media about Crackdown 3's delay, which now moves over to spring 2018. News like this is always controversial with the hardcore crowd, with Xbox detractors using it as a means to gloat and proselytize the downfall of the entire platform.
Microsoft's struggles with second party studios are pretty well documented at this point. Games like Ryse, Quantum Break, and Scalebound – exclusives built by contracted non-Microsoft studios – struggled in various ways, with the latter being canceled altogether.
It was reported that Crytek and Microsoft had a falling out over the Ryse IP, while Quantum Break's developers, Remedy Entertainment, announced plans to hit PlayStation almost immediately after shipping their much-hyped time-bending third-person shooter. And we all know what went down with Scalebound. What I'm saying here is, the fears for Crackdown 3 aren't without merit.
Crackdown 3's single player campaign is being put together by Sumo Digital, who has worked extensively with Microsoft on franchises like Forza, while the multiplayer component is being put together by Cloudgine, who are building technology that powers cloud-based physics.
Perhaps it wouldn't be such a huge deal if Crackdown 3 wasn't one of fairly few core exclusive titles launching on Xbox One this year, which is of particular interest due to the imminent launch of the Xbox One X. Some have decried Microsoft's 2017 lineup as particularly weak, given the abundance of quality exclusives Sony's PlayStation has enjoyed this year, and delays always provide the opportunity to kick Microsoft for those commentators who are so inclined.
As far as fans and gamers go, however, is moving Crackdown 3 to 2018 such a big deal? Maybe it is, but it's not a bad thing.
Delays are a necessary evil
Some of the greatest games in recent history have been the subject of delays. The Witcher 3 was famously bumped a couple of times, and Grand Theft Auto V too, both on previous generation consoles and PC.
The last thing any company wants to do is delay a game, because it eats into profit margins when you have to invest several additional months of development time before the money starts coming in.
Imagine a world where the maligned Mass Effect Andromeda had received an additional six months of bug fixes and polish.
I'm by no means assuming the delay will turn Crackdown 3 into something with the depth and scope of the Witcher 3, of course, but the sentiment that it will result in a better game should hold true.
I know it had already seen delays of its own, but imagine a world where the maligned Mass Effect Andromeda had received an additional six months of bug fixes and polish. We now live in a world where Mass Effect might not even exist anymore because EA gave up and shipped the franchise's most buggy and unpolished game to date. One of gaming's most beloved sci-fi franchises ever is on hiatus as a result. As a fan of Mass Effect, I can't possibly emphasize how disappointing that is.
For Microsoft to delay Crackdown 3 shows a willingness to push further to deliver a quality game. The much-rumored ReCore Definitive Edition will reveal what that game would have looked like with additional development time, and if my information is correct, it will be far superior to the game we saw last year, in terms of content, polish, and engine performance. Perhaps Microsoft is changing its ideology on how to handle first and second party titles, having learned lessons from the ill-fated Scalebound.
Why was Crackdown 3 delayed?
I've been unable to verify this information, so take it with a grain of salt, but I've heard from a few independent sources that the technology that powers Crackdown 3's cloud-powered multiplayer mode is at least in part to blame for the delays to the game. The technology is incredibly impressive, and we've seen it first hand at Gamescom a couple of years back, but that was in a closed environment. Add in the chaos of the world wide web, and server-side physics computations sound like a far more complicated affair.
If it is true that the multiplayer component of Crackdown 3 is holding up the game, it's not as though Sumo Digital will be sitting around doing nothing for the next few months. Microsoft Studios general publishing manager Shannon Loftis said that the delay will allow them to add visual polish to the game, delivering a more immersive experience in the process.
The alternative option would have been releasing Crackdown 3's single player separately to the multiplayer, but then you would be paying full price for half a game. The ideal solution was to delay the whole thing and improve every aspect, rather than wait for one piece of it to be completed.
I played Crackdown 3 at E3 2017 a few weeks back, and found it to be a resoundingly fun, and surprisingly well-polished affair. Still, there has been some commentary about the way the game looks, given its in-game cel-shaded visuals are a far cry from the quality of some of the CGI cinematics we've seen, featuring a digitized Terry Crews in all of his epic glory.
I saw this Crackdown 3 in-engine concept image floating around the web and have been unable to track where exactly it was posted, but the game at present looks nowhere near as detailed as the above. Perhaps there's a chance it could get closer to that conceptual goal as a result of this delay.
Is it really a big deal?
Crackdown 3 would have dropped in among the likes of Star Wars Battlefront II, Destiny 2, Call of Duty: WW2, Shadow of War, Assassin's Creed Origins, and various other photo-realistic heavy-hitters that would have quite easily stolen the spotlight from Crackdown 3. Even if Crackdown 3's delay wasn't technical, shifting it to a later date gives it a much bigger chance to shine on its own.
But what about the Xbox One's winter lineup? What about the Xbox One X's launch titles? The Xbox One X will be showcasing games like Middle-earth: Shadow of War, Forza 7 and Assassin's Creed Origins to showcase its full 6 TF graphics capabilities. While Crackdown 3 is full of flair and fireworks, I feel as though it's those photo-realistic games that will really have people's jaws dropping when they see them in full 4K on the X this November.
Microsoft's chief competitor, Sony's PlayStation, doesn't exactly have a huge exclusive lineup for the holiday season either, so it's not as though Microsoft needs to meet Sony head on with a heavy-hitting library of exclusives for the fall-winter games rush. It's the multiplats that almost always take the sales crown anyway. And seriously, who wants to go up against Battlefront II while a new Star Wars movie is about to hit movie theatres?
All in all, you have to assume that the delay will result in a better game for us, a better critical reception for its developers, and better business for Microsoft, who frankly have a lot to prove with the death of Fable Legends and Scalebound still fresh in people's memories. The delay is a good thing, but it will only amplify the pressure on Sumo Digital, Cloudgine, and Microsoft to really deliver something truly "AAA" next spring.
How do you feel about Crackdown 3's delay? Hit the comments and let's get discussing.