"South Park: The Stick of Truth" was (and is) one of the most anticipated games of the year and it looks like it could be the best branded tie-in game since "GoldenEye 007" (1997). Maybe even better. Bold words. And it could have come out on March 5th. Instead, the release date is now very murky - 'calendar 2013.' How did this happen?
The original "South Park: The Stick of Truth" release date of March 5th came straight from THQ, the former publisher. The game, developed by Obsidian Entertainment with very close involvement from the "South Park" team (particularly Trey Parker and Matt Stone), was one of THQ's biggest titles for the year, for obvious reasons. But the company, formerly one of the biggest game publishers in the United States, declared bankruptcy on December 19, 2012 (just in time for Christmas!) and everything changed.
At first, it looked like the game, and the rest of THQ's slate, would still come out on schedule. The company was simply looking for a buyer after a few bad years (on the corporate level, bankruptcy isn't really the end of the world - most of the airlines have been bankrupt at one time or another), and in the meantime THQ planned to "continue operating its business without interruption," without changing the "South Park: The Stick of Truth" release date.
If that had happened, we could be enjoying "South Park: The Stick of Truth" this very weekend. We could be playing as the newest kid in South Park, fighting against hippies and crab people in a desperate attempt to get Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny to be our friends.
It didn't happen. THQ soon pushed the game to an April to June release. But then a Delaware court, on behalf of the company's investors, determined that the company would be worth more if sold off in bits and pieces. Like most publishers, THQ doesn't actually develop games in-house. All or almost all of the games it publishes - i.e., prints, markets and distributes - are produced by game development studios. Some of these, like Volition, the makers of the "Saint's Row" series, were subsidiaries of THQ. Others, like Obsidian (who, along with "South Park: The Stick of Truth," made "Fallout: New Vegas" and other great RPGs), simply used THQ as a publisher.
Regardless, in January, THQ was torn apart and sold at auction. Most of the studios and games found good homes - including "South Park: The Stick of Truth," which was acquired for $3.2 million by Ubisoft Montreal. Unfortunately, that forced the "South Park: The Stick of Truth" release date to change. That's why we aren't hanging out at Tom's Rhinoplasty.
After the purchase, Ubisoft issued a press release confirming that the "South Park: The Stick of Truth" release date is still in calendar 2013 - sometime. Unfortunately, that extends the possible date well beyond June. They have yet to release more updated information. The game could appear out of nowhere at any moment.
If the game was ready to go, which it was, why didn't the game stay on track? "South Park: The Stick of Truth" is a big game and a major release. It won several Best in Show awards at E3 2012. The game is written and voiced by Matt and Trey, just like the show itself, and has been in development in a variety of forms for many years. It has incredible potential.
Chances are, Ubisoft will use the extra few months for a final polish and review. THQ had been in trouble for a long time, and might have cut corners on bug testing or QA. Ubisoft didn't just buy the game to shove it out the door. It changed the "South Park: The Stick of Truth" release date to make sure the game is as good as it can be. And that's a good thing, whether we get the game before season 17 premieres or not.