XCOM: Enemy Unknown is out on Oct. 9, one more pillar in what is expected to be an unusually successful fall for 2K Games. Borderlands 2 is expected to sell around 4 million copies, and NBA 2K13 stands to sell an equal number of copies over its first six months on shelves based on the performance of NBA 2K12. XCOM is a support for 2K Games’s fall line up. With the game receiving early critical praise, it appears that 2K’s investment in a faded franchise will bear fruit in the form of strong new stable IP. Maybe, after years of delays and reboots, it will finally release its XCOM shooter.
Or maybe it will simply release what it’s got and try to get a return on its initial investment.
A 2K Games survey detailed by Kotaku suggests that 2K Games has reimagined its shooter yet again. Now a third-person multiplayer shooter, the XCOM reboot will be released as a $30 downloadable title rather than a $60 retail release.
2K Games refused to comment on whether or not the survey is legitimate, but screenshots like the one above are comparable to trailers and screens of the game shown following its initial announcement at E3 2010.
When the game was announced at that conference, it was still a first-person shooter modeled in part after 2K Games’ successful BioShock series. Fan and critical backlash against the game forced 2K to cancel its 2011 release date, redesigning the game to be more tactical and less “run-and-gun” action as its narrative director Jordan Thomas described it. Scheduled for March 2012, 2K cancelled XCOM again, saying it would release sometime during fiscal 2014.
2K Games would be wise to release XCOM as a budget-priced downloadable game. Electronic Arts’ failure with Syndicate this year provided 2K with an object lesson in how audiences react to shooting-based reimaginings of strategy franchises. The Starbreeze-developed, multiplayer-focused Syndicate released for consoles as a $60 retail game in February and sold just 34,000 copies. Had EA not spent the additional money on manufacturing physical copies of the game, as well as shipping to retailers, Syndicate might not have been a complete loss.
Take-Two Interactive, 2K Games’ parent company, is coming off of a disappointing year. Max Payne 3 disappointed at retail, and the delays of BioShock Infinite and Grand Theft Auto V conspired to give the company a $107.7 million loss for fiscal 2012. Things are looking up though. Releasing XCOM as a budget priced downloadable game will allow it to recoup some of the cost of the game’s prolonged development while mitigating the risk of a retail release.