In life, punctuality is usually a good thing, right? We’re expected to show up to school and work on time, and we’re penalized if we don’t. Some of us live by the motto that “you’re late if you aren’t early,” whereas others slide in just before the bell rings/ it’s time to clock in at work. In the game industry, many titles are held to the same standard: a game is expected to be released at a certain time, and the developer has to follow through with it. With that being said, if we’re upset when somebody is late (and our boss is upset when we’re late) to an event, shouldn’t we be upset when games are delayed, as well? Or, on the other hand, is it acceptable because waiting a few extra months will give us a more polished product?
My prompt for writing this post stems from a little anger. I’m buying a PS4 at launch, fingers crossed, and there are certain games that I’m excited for. DriveClub was on my list because I like racing games. Then, about three days ago, I was reading Game Informer when I saw that a version of DriveClub would be free to PlayStation Plus subscribers from day one when the PS4 launches. I was ecstatic to find that I was receiving a free game at launch! Then, today I learned that DriveClub has been delayed into 2014, and I was crushed. Likewise, Watch_Dogs has been delayed by Ubisoft, and rather than releasing at launch, it will be released sometime in 2014.
I can’t understand how this happens. Please forgive me since I don’t work in the game industry, but how is it possible for a game to be delayed even though it’s had years to be developed? How do you get within thirty days of release and then have to say “Wow, look at the time! Sorry, everyone; we won’t be done for another six months.” It doesn’t make any sense that a company can get so close to releasing a game before going back on their word; the word that they’ve been spreading for months on posters, websites, magazines, and more.
The problem is that even though it hurts us as consumers, it hurts them even more. For example, since Watch_Dogs has been delayed, I’ll buy something else instead. Then, by the time Watch_Dogs actually does release, there will be other games on my radar, and I won’t be interested in it anymore. Ubisoft missed their chance now, and because of that, I’ll most likely end up buying the game used, and they won’t receive any money from my purchase. This is a highly competitive market. With so many games out there, it’s easy to get swallowed up and forgotten about. That’s exactly what might happen to Watch_Dogs. It was highly anticipated, but other games will take the spotlight, and by the time it finally does come out, nobody might care anymore.
On the other hand, it’s quite possible that the title is delayed for a good reason. For example, another Ubisoft title was recently released that had been delayed for months: Rayman Legends. Rayman Legends was slated to be a Wii U exclusive, and it was supposed to come out in the spring, if I’m not mistaken. However, it was delayed a few months, and it finally came out in North America last month. What did Ubisoft do in the few extra months it had? Well, the game ended up being released on the PS3, 360, PC, and Vita in addition to the Wii U, and it’s currently sitting at about 9/10 from most reviewing outlets.
Would Rayman Legends have been an A scoring game if it had been released four months ago? Maybe; maybe not. We may never know. However, we cannot deny the fact that by taking out a “loan” of a few extra months, Ubisoft was able to make the game available to a much larger audience. They most likely saw the laughable Wii U sales and decided that taking a few months to make their game available to more people was a gamble they were willing to take, even if it meant taking the chance of people becoming disinterested.
Other games, such as Madden, FIFA, and other sports titles cannot afford to be delayed; these games are annual ones that are expected to be released at alongside the start of the season for their respective sport. Yes, oftentimes, the titles suffer because of the time squeeze, and it brings up an important question: would you rather have a decent sports title every year, or a great one every other year?
Here’s my solution, and I’ll use Madden for an example. Madden is oftentimes scorned for not putting enough innovation into each entry, and there is a way to combat this. Instead of releasing a $60 game every year that is only decent, try releasing one every other year, with a small update available for purchase in the off year. This update could include new game modes, roster updates, etc. However, in this money hungry environment, as long as EA is seeing good sales, they won’t quit the yearly model, no matter how bad the scores are. There’s no incentive.
I’m caught in the crossfire between telling the truth and hypocrisy. I want games to be released when they are supposed to be released; I find it inexcusable that with years to work on a game, the developers cannot get it done in time. I would rather have you tell me a game is going to be released in 2 years rather than telling me it’ll be released in 18 months and then delay it another 6; I can plan accordingly in the first example, but not so in the second. On the other hand, I’d be a hypocrite if I told you that games should be released when they’re supposed to, because an unfinished game isn’t worth releasing.
Do you see what I’m getting at? It’s acceptable, but it isn’t. I see why games need to be delayed, yet at the same time, I can’t condone it. Then, on the flipside, titles that are rushed to the market (read: sports games) aren’t always as good as they could be, thanks to speedy production times, even though they can usually copy and paste a basic template over from the year before.
In the end, I think that delays are occasionally acceptable, given that they are delayed for a good reason. I think that if a game is delayed, yet it’s critically praised at release, then it was probably worth it to get that A rated experience. There’s really no way to tell if a delay is worth it or not before the game is released, as is the case with the current Watch_Dogs delay; we’ll have to wait until 2014 to decide that for ourselves, but I want to ask you this: do you think delays are acceptable, or should a company stick to its word? Is there any flexibility in that decision based on the title and circumstances, or should the rule apply to all; you must release without delay, and there are no exceptions? I’m intrigued; please enlighten me in the comment section below.
As always, I would love it if you leave a like or a follow, and please take a look at the LP channels in my “Links” tab. Speaking of LPs, I may be posting one of me playing Slender, which will be terrifying for me, as I hate horror games and movies. I’ll keep you posted; it depends on if I can get the video recording software to work or not.