Most of us have felt that plummeting disappointment that comes with day one patches. It’s that disappointment induced when your excitement to play a game is nullified by the tedious need to sit through the download of an update. When you go out and buy a DVD, or most likely a UHD Blu-Ray for most of us now, you’re not forced to watch an incomplete film if you don’t download an update. If you buy a CD (good on you) then likewise you get access to all the content of that album right from the disc; when it comes to games, this is rarely the case.
It’s imperative for me, as someone who holds immense respect for developers of all kinds, to write in this article that I don’t envy the work that developers do for us for a second and they deserve all of our respect for what they do. Development can sometimes be an impossibly intricate process and problems are inevitably going to arise and we all owe it to the work of developers to be respectful as they iron out issues during the development cycle.
Some developers can admittedly be worse than others but, for the most part, people that accuse devs of being “lazy” are almost always in the wrong and misconceive the complexity of the game development process. The amalgamation of bringing together all the different and varying factors of a game into a complete package is no easy feat; developers often work day and night and make many sacrifices to launch a game and the last thing they need or even deserve is to be hassled on Twitter.
The matter of contention, however, comes towards the very end of that same development cycle. Developers submit their game to the respective platform certification systems on PC and consoles and, once tested to be ready to release to consumers, goes ‘gold’. When it is decided that a game is ready to go gold; consumers are essentially told that development on the game is done, and the game is ready to be sold.
More so than any other product in entertainment, the video game industry is obsessed with tracking how much money they can make from a game before it’s even released. Pre-orders and ‘deluxe/super/gold/ultimate’ versions of games draw more money out of our pockets earlier and earlier each year. You can pay full price for a game that’s massively different from the final game that actually becomes available on the real launch date and that’s not something to be taken lightly.
Video games launching with bugs is nothing new but should we be so tolerable of the attitude “Oh well, it can’t be avoided,”or is there something developers and publishers can do to prevent a lot of the controversy?
One of the key issues with this is transparency. Hypothetically, it’s often taken as a worrying sign when developers go silent between going gold and the actual release date because it’s inferred that they’re rushing around trying to ensure the product you get on release is more refined than the version of the game they printed on the disc that went gold.
The problem can often arise when publishers and/or developers are coy on the issues they’re facing. Internally, they know all the things that might not be 100% up to scratch but consumers never find out about these unless a game leaks early; there’s no open dialogue between consumers when a situation like this arises – we’re all expected to pretend that nothing is wrong and hope that a day one patch fixes everything.
However, that’s not always the case. If games like Assassins Creed Unity, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Battlefield 4 and many others have taught us anything it’s that publishers and developers are willing and able to sell unfinished products to some of the most passionate fans in existence.
There’s no easy solution to this problem. Consumer culture in 2016 for video games has fostered a culture where almost everyone is feeling the urgency to pre-order and give their money to developers/publishers before the game is released to feel like they’re “in” on the game. No one example is worse than another; many games are guilty of this. Big or small studios. Ubisoft or EA. Microsoft or Sony.
One of the hardest things about this controversy is, like any good intellectual debate, people on both sides have strong arguments for their case. We understand and sympathize with developers and the unforeseen troubles of game development. Having said that, consumers spending their money on a product are innately entitled to some degree of confidence. Do we bring demos back? Do we have more public beta testing?
One step I think could benefit us all is greater transparency between consumers and developers/publishers. Is the game having a problem? Then let the people who coughed up $60 for your game know. The secrecy and silence surrounding situations like these only add fuel to the fire and the negativity surrounding such issues.
I do firmly believe that the gaming industry is very special and is something I’m thankful for and even in times like this there’s still positivity to be found. The greatest strength of the industry is that it’s full of talented people and the level of interaction accessible between gamers and devs. Now, we need to find a way to utilise that to do better by everyone; devs and consumers alike.