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PSN demo for Crysis 2 pulled, fate of game at retail questionable

David Hughes's picture

Electronic Arts took a highly unusual step earlier today by removing the demo for Crysis 2 from the Playstation Network just two days before it appeared because of massive quality concerns - which makes the game's March 22nd release auspicious to say the least.

Crysis 2 represents (at least) two different products. For publisher Electronic Arts, it is another tool in their arsenal to gain market share in the massive first-person shooter video game market. Activision dominates the genre currently with its Call of Duty franchise, but when sales of EA's fractured FPS library (Medal of Honor and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 last year; Bulletstorm, Crysis 2 and Battlefield 3 this year) it stands toe-to-toe with Activision's juggernaut. Crysis has a decidedly more sci-fi bent than the standard 'military FPS' but the high-level design clearly has Call of Duty in mind. For developer Crytek, the game is a massive tech demo to draw potential licensees for its CryEngine graphics technology, particularly if Crysis 2 manages to 'set the benchmark' for console graphics performance in the way the first Crysis wowed (and still impresses) PC gamers in 2007.

Both parties are sweating right now because the Playstation 3 demo of the game was fraught with so many problems that it was shut down after only two days. To be fair, the Xbox 360 demo released last month performed rather well despite being slightly underwhelming, but here we have a major component of the game failing to work properly mere days before its scheduled release. According to Eurogamer, the problem is due to poor back-end server code (as opposed to the code that ships with the game disc) that has kept many players from being able to log a single match. According to the company, "we've identified the root cause and have decided to close the PS3 demo in the next 24 hours to ensure all issues are resolved when the game launches next week. Our priority is to ensure that the final product is flawless at launch." That may end up being the case, but HULIQ is skeptical that a demo released a week from the game's scheduled release (a time when some stores already have the game locked in inventory) will be radically different from the launch experience of the game for those purchasing the PS3 version.

Also a concern for both parties is that pre-orders of Crysis 2 lag well behind expectations. HULIQ has had some rather pointed comments about the game's pre-order data before, and orders have picked up since then (most notably for the Xbox 360 version), but the game continues to lag well behind orders for recent releases like Homefront, Killzone 3, and the EA published Bulletstorm. Word of mouth and good reviews may fix this situation, but the immediate launch will see very flat sales - and perhaps many disgruntled customers if the Playstation 3-specific issues do not end up being fixed. PS3 owners have already been forced to endure bad server implementation for Call of Duty: Black Ops for weeks on end, so this latest news is not good for that segment of the market.

Since Crysis 2 represents a previously PC-exclusive franchise going multi-platform, and the PC market's digital distribution is such a strong factor in overall sales, it is very difficult to make a sales projection for the game as HULIQ has done for other high-profile new releases recently. Given the lack of any spike in pre-orders after the Xbox 360 demo, the increase in pre-orders happening only in the last week before release, the game will be hard pressed to exceed sales of Homefront. Considering the first game crossed the one million unit mark after roughly six months on the PC alone, staying under 2 million units by the first year would be a rather poor improvement for the extra expense of going multi-platform.

The graphical prowess on display may make the game worth it for Crytek in the form of licensees for its graphics engine, but this will not likely be a winning bet for EA given current indicators.

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