With the end of 2008 rapidly approaching, the list of big-name new games is rapidly dwindling. So, too, is the roster of expansions, with the highest-profile add-on of the year, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, going on sale this Thursday.
Unfortunately, the biggest console expansion of 2008 may soon become the biggest console expansion of 2009. Following months of rumors, Rockstar Games cofounder and vice president Dan Houser now openly says the Xbox 360-exclusive downloadable content for Grand Theft Auto IV may not arrive this year.
"I'm not sure," the veteran designer told Variety when asked about the DLC's drop date. "It's going well. But we don't know a date. We hope to be announcing that in the next few weeks. We're still figuring out a few things."
While the launch date may be fuzzy, Houser gave several concrete reasons that the expansion, which remains unpriced and untitled, could slip past its long-promised Q4 2008 release window. "We're more focused on quality than dates, [and] always have been," he said, obliquely referring to Grand Theft Auto IV's six-month delay from October 2007 to April 2008. He may have also been referring to the PC version of the game, which has been pushed back to December.
Houser also acknowledged the complexity of launching a substantial update for a game as popular as GTAIV, which sold over 10 million units worldwide even before its Japanese launch late last month. "Doing a big digital launch is something we've never done before," he explained. "It's virgin territory, but at the same time, we feel very exposed because there's no case history. No one ever came out with major DLC for a major game like this before."
To date, the biggest downloadable add-on for a game published by Rockstar parent Take-Two Interactive was the Shivering Isles expansion for The Elder Scrolls IV. However, while the boxed retail version of the PC edition was copublished by Take-Two's 2K Games label, all online versions were digitally distributed by Bethesda either directly (PC) or in direct partnership with a console maker (360 and PlayStation 3).
As of press time, neither Microsoft nor Rockstar reps had returned requests for comment on the status of the GTAIV DLC. As recently as last month, Microsoft said the additional content would be ready before December 31.