Nobody likes game delays. We, as gamers, don’t. Developers don’t. Critics don’t. But we all have to go through one every once in a while. It’s life… unfortunately. So, are game delays a God-given blessing; or a Satan-supplied curse?
Obviously, if I were to ask you, ‘would you prefer a game to be delayed and be brilliant, or to come out now and be average at best?’, you’d go with the former. Nobody wants to pay a full £50/$60 for a game, only for it to be broken and riddled with issues that the makers could have tackled, if they were given the time. Take ‘Watch Dogs’ as a recent and high-profile example. It was definitely the most anticipated video game of 2012 (the year it was announced at E3), and arguably retained that prestigious title in 2013. Therefore, when it was announced less than month before it’s initial, intended release date that it had been delayed to the “first financial quarter of 2014” (March-June), gamers were up in arms, angered at the prospect of having to wait a minimum of a further five months until they could play their favourite hack-’em-up. However, if the same people had been given a game that was glitchy, broken, and unfinished, the reaction would have been the same… if not, worse! For Ubisoft, then, it was a lose-lose situation, whatever they chose to do.
On the other hand, it was revealed in an interview back in 2013 that the DLC for Watch Dogs would be completed by the start of 2014. Given the date now, it would appear that if Ubisoft has met that deadline, the DLC for Watch Dogs is finished already. Personally, this angers me, but only if it is indeed true (no further information concerning DLC has been officially released by Ubisoft at the time of writing), and allow me to enlighten you as to why: DLC (or downloadable content) is an extra addition that can add new missions, costumes, cars, or anything else to a game post-release. Usually, it costs gamers (whether it does and, if so, how much depends on the extra content on offer) and is available to download a month or so after a game’s release date. Therefore, the section of Ubisoft that is making Watch Dogs should be entirely focused on delivering gamers that very game as soon as possible, and not on producing DLC before the game has even hit game store stockrooms. Prioritising the game’s DLC over the game itself doesn’t even mean that the DLC will be top-notch, and it certainly doesn’t spell anything positive for the actual game. A prime example of this is ‘The Last Of Us’, which was released entirely on its own, with no mention of DLC on the way. This is because Naughty Dog had made the right choice by tunneling their time and skillful effort into crafting the masterpiece that is The Last Of Us, rather than splitting it between the game and the DLC. Despite this, the DLC, ‘Left Behind’ (which was released in February, nearly a year after the game), was critically-acclaimed and even considered by many to have exceeded the original game in some aspects.
In addition to this, Ubisoft also revealed that they felt that, around the time of the launch of the next-gen consoles, the gaming market would become saturated with open-world titles. These included: ‘Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’, ‘Batman: Arkham Origins’, and ‘Grand Theft Auto V’, as well as the sure-to-be bestselling games that were ‘Battlefield 4’ and ‘Call of Duty: Ghosts’. Ubisoft, unsurprisingly, felt worried that such games would severely impact on the sales of Watch Dogs, which is completely understandable (at least to me). It was because of this (among other factors, I’m sure), that caused Ubisoft to delay their most awaited game.
However, game delays (as mentioned earlier) can be a curse. For instance, the social-driven racer, ‘DriveClub’, was intended to be a Forza-rivaling, first-party, PlayStation 4 launch game, before it was pushed back last year. This didn’t surprise many people as the release date (launch day) given was thought to be optimistic. Then, it got pushed back again, and again, and again, and – oh, yeah – again, and gamers (myself included) were rapidly losing interest and thought this might be ‘The Last Guardian’ all over again. Therefore, pre-order numbers slowed and even reduced as interests wavered and hung in the balance. Even as I write, there still hasn’t been a confirmed release date for DriveClub. Then it got even worse. Lay-offs and resignations from within Sony-owned Evolution Studios (the people behind DriveClub) were discovered, which got previously eager gamers nervous. Why would people quit if development of the game was going well? Hint: they wouldn’t.
Personally, I believe that game delays are a necessity in some cases, but only as a last resort. Developers shouldn’t get lazy because they know they can always extend the time until release, especially when you consider that they provide us with a release date. I also believe that when a game is delayed, the makers of the game in question should keep their fans firmly in the loop, even on unconfirmed subjects. This means consistent, daily Facebook posts and Tweets, as well as other things. This not only provides a good relationship between the player and the maker, but also keeps that player hooked and interested in the game, as they are being constantly updated, rather than being left in the dark by the same people who are willing to take their money.
It recently occurred to me that in recent months (actually, since the beginning of the next generation of gaming), game delays are becoming more commonplace. I can understand one or two isolated cases here and there. Game developers are humans too, and they make mistakes just like the rest of us. Mistakes that take time to rectify. Despite this, I do not understand numerous game delays all happening at once as we have seen here with Watch Dogs and DriveClub, even if they are at the start of a new console cycle. Console cycles have happened before, and game delays weren’t heard of, so why now? Yes, new technology is introduced and takes time to implement and get used to, but the same applies to the film industry. New filming technology and equipment can be introduced and successfully implemented halfway through a film’s creation and work out fine. So why does it happen to video games, where mistakes are easier to correct? If a mistake is made on a film, the entire cast and crew have to go back to a location, set up gear, and begin filming again; not to mention the extensive editing that is then required.
So game delays are a tricky business to say the least. They are one of the many double-edged swords to be found within the gaming industry. Most of the time, they can save a game and boost people’s spirits after having to wait so long. But, on occasion, they can destroy a game, and, if I was a game developer, that is a side of the sword I do not want to be on.
What are your thoughts on game delays? Please feel free to let us know in the comments below.
If you would like to contact me directly, my Twitter is: https://twitter.com/ps3nutter