Stay clear of blockbuster "blast radius" warns Molyneux

New IP needs to avoid "insane" sales period or offer something completely new to succeed at Christmas

New products and new IP needs to stay clear of the big releases during the end of the year or suffer being crushed by the marketing of blockbuster franchises.

That's according to Lionhead boss Peter Molyneux, who said that titles such as Call of Duty or Halo swamp the media, retail and marketing channels before Christmas and make it impossible for new titles to stand out in the crowd.

"These products create what we call craters - the bigger the product the bigger the crater, and the larger you want the distance to be away from it," said Molyneux, speaking in an exclusive interview published today.

"If you're inside the blast radius of something like Halo or Gears of War, or even Fable, you have to have a very strong, clear message of why a consumer should spend this much more on your product. If you haven't got that you should stay clear of the blast radius - it's really that simple.

"If you want to go inside someone else's crater, just make sure you have a very clear message of why you stand out against it, because you're going to be competing for the front covers of magazines, front pages of websites, and the huge end caps at the end of stores. That's going to make a difference," he offered.

A growing number of games have had release dates pushed back from the end of the year into the first quarter of 2010, with many trying to avoid the Christmas retail crush of titles such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 or Halo ODST.

Molyneux said he understood the reason for holding back the release of a title if publishers and developers are honest enough to realise it's not going to be a multi-million seller. And he added that just because a game is complete, doesn't mean it should necessarily be rushed to retail

"If you sit down and actually play the game and realise the game's not an experience that's going to sell millions and millions, that's a very good reason to push things out, and a cost-effective thing to do.

"Quite often, products are released because they've been finished, which in my view is the wrong reason. They get shipped six weeks after the gold disc is made, but that doesn't make it right to do it that way," he said.

Although there are other holiday periods in the year where it's acceptable to release big titles, Molyneux admitted it's unlikely the industry will ever learn to space releases out fully over twelve months.

"Christmas is this insane focus where an enormous percentage of our market is there.

"I think there are other opportunities in the year - Easter, and the summer holidays - but I just cannot see six or seven huge titles coming together at an arbitrary time any other time," he concluded.

The full interview with Peter Molyneux, where he also discusses the effect the economy is having on the games business, and the newly announced Fable III, can be read here.

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