For a long time, the biggest thing missing from Horizon Forbidden West's reveal has been its release date. Even when Guerrilla Games put together a gameplay reveal earlier this year, it didn't confirm when exactly the game was going to come out. Game director Mathijs de Jonge said in June that Horizon Forbidden West was in its final development stages, which inspired some confidence that the game would be done by the end of 2021. Unfortunately, that's no longer the case. A reputable game industry leaker recently claimed that Horizon Forbidden West won't come out until 2022, delaying it out of its anticipated holiday 2021 release window.
If the Horizon Forbidden West delay is true, then it's certainly a disappointment. Fans of Horizon Zero Dawn were really looking forward to capping off the year with a sequel to one of the PS4's most popular games. However, the delay's impact on Sony is more important than its impact on the Horizon brand. Horizon Forbidden West could make fantastic sales during the holiday season thanks to its notoriety, but if it's just not ready to release, Sony has a big gap in its game lineup for the rest of 2021. It could miss out on a ton of sales if this PlayStation exclusive gets delayed.
Horizon Forbidden West itself will be fine if the rumored delayed go through. While it's an inconvenience for eager fans, it's a good thing for the game. As always, a game delay means more development time, and usually much needed development at that. Jonge did mention that, while Horizon Forbidden West was mostly on schedule, Guerrilla Games had fallen behind on certain aspects like machine design. Based on the rumor, the lagging aspects of Horizon Forbidden West might've lagged further, meaning Guerrilla needs to slow down to deliver the level of quality that fans expect.
Delay or no delay, Horizon Forbidden West will probably sell well. Horizon Zero Dawn met widespread acclaim and was more than worthy of the sequel, so there's no doubt that fans will jump on it. The delay is a convenience for Guerrilla Games, however it remains an inconvenience for Sony. Every year, the game industry does everything it can to capitalize on the holiday season. All that gift-giving means it's a fantastic time to sell coveted games and garner new fans. It's no surprise that studios like to release new games during the last couple months of the year to take advantage of the holidays.
If Horizon Forbidden West doesn't come out until 2022, Sony is missing out on one of its biggest exclusive games at the most important time. Horizon is quickly becoming an important part of Sony's brand, so it really needed to have the game ready for the holidays. By contrast, Nintendo and Microsoft have great games to market for the holidays. Nintendo has Metroid Dread, Shin Megami Tensei 5, and Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl on the way, while Microsoft has the star power of Halo Infinite on its hands. A Horizon Forbidden West delay means Sony is missing out on one of its biggest answers to these influential games.
Sony's problem is exacerbated by the fact it doesn't really have many games that could fill Horizon's shoes during the holiday season. Some PlayStation exclusives, like the martial arts brawler Sifu from Sloclap, have already been delayed into 2022. Other games, like the hotly anticipated God of War: Ragnarok, don't have release dates at all, meaning they'll almost certainly miss the boat on 2021's holiday season. Sony's options for replacing Horizon Forbidden West are slim.
Games aren't the only thing Sony has to worry about for holiday 2021 either. Console sales are also important during the holidays, but PS5s are still hard to find. A chip shortage continues to plague PS5 production, which keeps supply lower than demand. It also doesn't help that scalpers continue to snatch up PS5s, making the console much harder for PlayStation fans to afford. If the PS5 is still so hard to buy at the end of 2021, then it probably can't do much to help Sony make sales.
This multitude of conveniences shows just how hard Sony will have to work to make the most of the holiday season. It has a few valuable games meant to arrive on PS4 and PS5 well before the holidays that might be its key to success in the holidays. PlayStation fans may start seeing a lot of advertisements for Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Deathloop, and so on if Sony has to accommodate for a delayed Horizon Forbidden West. As valuable and helpful as Horizon has been to the PlayStation brand, a delay of the second game would clearly raise some issues.
With all this said, it really is interesting how little impact a delay would have on Horizon Forbidden West compared to the significant blow it would deal to Sony. At this point, the video game industry has delayed so many games there's really nothing shocking or surprising about Horizon Forbidden West potentially needing more time. The industry is still recovering from the mountain of development setbacks created by the COVID-19 pandemic. AAA studios and indie developers alike have had to navigate the pandemic in their own ways, which often meant they needed to develop their games with a new level of care and patience.
Still, the newfound normalcy of game delays doesn't mean that Horizon's potential delay is trivial. Again, Horizon Forbidden West could define the holiday 2021 video game market, so the leaker's claim is a big deal. Ideally, Guerrilla Games and Sony won't let the rumor go unanswered for too long. It'd be best if they come forward as soon as possible and either confirm or deny the claims about Horizon Forbidden West so that fans know what to expect out of the rest of the year. Leaks contribute a lot to video game fans' picture of the game industry. This leak in particular is worth addressing so that PlayStation fans can better understand Sony and Horizon Forbidden West's shared future.
Horizon Forbidden West releases for PS4 and PS5 in 2022.