It’s a little bizarre that this year, there’s a literal line drawn in the sand where the video game drought of summer ends, and the waterfall of big-name titles begins in the fall. This year, that date is literally September 1st, which sees the release of what will likely be two of the biggest games this fall, Konami’s Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain and Warner Bros’ Mad Max.
And yes, both are releasing on exactly the same day, and both are multiplatform titles meaning there’s significant overlap. And while this can happen from time to time in a crowded fall release schedule, are these games doing themselves a disservice by both vying to be the first ones out of the gate this fall?
It may seem like a case of David vs. Goliath at first. Metal Gear Solid is a hugely storied franchise and this fifth and final installment has been extra hyped due to Hideo Kojima’s fights with Konami. To say it’s highly anticipated by its fanbase is something of an understatement.
Mad Max, in contrast, has the benefit of a great summer blockbuster to generate hype for the universe (even if the movie has practically nothing to do with the game), but it will exist as a completely untested IP, however much history there is with the films.
But I’d make a counter-argument that these two games might be more on equal footing than many imagine. I’m going to just assume for the sake of argument, both games will be good, say, MGS5 is as well-received as the past installments of the series, and Mad Max is a solidShadow of Mordor-style debut. Holding quality roughly equal, Mad Max could have a few hidden advantages.
First, while Metal Gear Solid is a big-name franchise, it’s also one of the more inaccessible series out there, unless you’ve been following it for years. While it’s easy to jump into a new Halo or Call of Duty while knowing little about the franchise, and it’s even possible to do for something like The Witcher 3, Metal Gear Solid is a different animal. Kojima’s world is so incredibly complicated even reading a hundred pages of a wiki is unlikely to clear many aspects of it up. New players may be afraid to try and jump into MGS5 without playing the previous games, and since Konami hasn’t come out with a timely remaster or re-release, that isn’t easy. Even if gameplay is solid, trying to comprehend the characters, story and universe may be a bridge too far for new players.
Mad Max on the other hand is a game that everyone will approach on equal footing, and has a much more simplistic concept. Big open world. Post-apocalypse. Collecting car parts and weapons to dominate a wasteland infested with tribal gangs. This is something that anyone will be able to jump into and play, and with what appears to be relatively simplistic combat mechanics that feel as familiar as an Arkham game, if the quality is good, it could easily be more appealing to many than Metal Gear Solid.
Still, with MGS’s history and the fact that it’s also available on last-gen consoles, I doubt Mad Max will outsell it when all is said and done. Out of the two games, if anyone would move their debut date, it would be Mad Max. And it’s possible they should.
The rest of September is sort of full, sort of not.Destiny’s Taken King expansion debuts September 15th along with Forza 6 on Xbox and NHL ’16. FIFA is September 22nd, and though I don’t have much faith in its potential sales, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is out September 29th. But the heaviest hitters of the fall like Fallout 4, Black Ops 3, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Halo 5,and AC: Syndicate aren’t coming until October and November. By comparison, September is relatively clear. Even if Mad Max just pushed back a week to the 8th, Metal Gear fans will have already been playing for a week, and Mad Max will get the news cycle all to itself.
And that’s what this is really about. If Metal Gear Solid 5 and Mad Max come out the same day, which is more likely to dominate the news cycle for the next two week after launch? Probably MGS5, given everything that’s happened in the lead-up to its debut. But if Mad Max came out on the 8th, competing with quite literally almost nothing, it would have that week all to itself, barring any lingering MGS stories. Or it could try for later in the month (I wouldn’t recommend the 15th, which is pretty crowded and will be dominated by Destiny, I imagine), but Tony Hawk shouldn’t pose a threat. But a month delay may be too much.
It’s possible both can co-exist on the same day. Metal Gear Solid is likely going to be much, much longer, and could turn into a month-long play experience for some players, depending on their schedules. Mad Max will probably be more like the length of an Arkham game or Shadow of Mordor, which is a bit more manageable to finish within a week or so. Players might be able to play around with MGS the first week before really diving deep into it, but they could probably beat all of Mad Max relatively quickly and then move on.
Still, it just doesn’t seem with September being the lightest month of the fall that it’s the best idea for either game to have Mad Max and Metal Gear Solidplaying chicken with the same release date. If anyone blinks, it’s going to be Max, and Warner Bros. might want to consider even a week delay to get a news cycle all to themselves.