As series closer "Batman: Arkham Knight" prepares to dominate video gaming's mid-year release schedule, we look at the factors leading to its much anticipated but atypically-timed launch.
The reputation of franchise-founding studio Rocksteady -- then an unremarkable outfit with one game to its name -- changed dramatically when 2009's "Batman: Arkham Asylum" was released.
Not only did it set a gold standard for action-adventure games, scooping accolades come award season, but its achievement as a genre-defining title was all the more surprising given that it turned back decades of poor precedent for licensed video game tie-ins.
Rocksteady then made 2011 sequel "Batman: Arkham City," moving its concept from the cramped confines of a criminal institution to a section of Gotham itself. Absent for 2013's "Batman: Arkham Origins," competent but not outstanding as a debut from Warner Bros Montreal, Rocksteady was able to concentrate on this, its well-anticipated series conclusion.
The new elements
As well as improving on existing aspects of the series -- the caped vigilante's gadgets, combat proficiency, and all-round crime-fighting abilities -- several new features are being introduced.
A rugged Batmobile with autonomous AI responds like a loyal stallion to Batman's call, armored like a battering ram and bristling with weaponry. Its ejector seat then propels him high into the air -- an immediate vantage from which to glide throughout the city.
And there are other characters to control other than ol' Bats himself. Players can switch between key allies during brawls, Robin, Nightwing and Catwoman included, while plans for post-release content include missions dedicated to some of these characters' storylines.
Landing on June 23 worldwide, the date for "Batman: Arkham Knight" is somewhat unusual. As outdoor activities beckon for those in the northern hemisphere, June to August is all about lower-risk reissues and smaller-scale affairs; big-name games like this launch towards the end of the year.
In fact, "Arkham Knight" had originally been intended for October 2014, but Rocksteady won 8 additional months to complete its work. More than that causes problems for studio, publisher, and Warner Bros' September release "Mad Max."
Still, over a subdued period, "Batman: Arkham Knight" is one of very few high-status titles releasing for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The action-oriented "Payday 2" collection should pose a challenge, but it's geared towards online multiplayer. Likewise for "Skyrim"-style MMO, "The Elder Scrolls Online" -- both have been on PC for a good while.
"Arkham Knight" could prove perfect for new-gen gamers wanting a big, ambitious, brand new game. If people are ready to buy, it's poised to take full advantage.