A Higher Standard is Expected
Year after year we have the pleasure of seeing great new multiplayer games release that allow us to join up with our friends to explore new worlds, work together to defeat universe threatening enemies, develop life altering alliances, and so much more. Multiplayer video games have become the new after school (or work) hangout. The place where people get together and unwind after a long stressful day. Just like what the mall used to be for many before this dark age that we find ourselves living through. I could argue that multiplayer games are even one of the world’s most revolutionary technological advancements ever made, up there with the internet, simply because of the shattering of previous social norms that took place after they were introduced.
Even after noting what these games have done to alter the way we regularly engage with other people today, and how important they have become in regards to general human interaction, the industry seems to time after time neglect the load testing of their games. It is unfathomable in my eyes the amount of games getting released that have server crashes, connectivity issues, or just poor performance for the entire first couple weeks following the game’s launch. How can you be so incompetent and so unaware of the expected number of players on your game? It’s not like there hasn’t been hundreds of previous benchmarks set by all of these other similar games that have been released up to this point.
The Industry’s Inability to See the Problem
My point is there are steps available to these developers that they can take to prevent these crashes from happening. Even for completely new IPs there are ways to accurately determine an expected playerbase before blindly jumping off the deep end and launching a new multiplayer game. For those unaware, there are many companies out there that are strictly there just to load test the servers of these new games to make sure that they don’t burst into flames like they so commonly seem to do on launch day. The issue is that these companies either don’t get their game’s servers properly load tested, or they are so blatantly incompetent that they do not do their due diligence in order to determine an accurate number for their expected playerbase.
What really gets me are the games like Madden and Call of Duty that release new games every year to a set in stone fan base that really doesn’t change in term of the mass number of players year to year. These games in particular never fail to have server issues. EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. I can’t even begin to understand the reasoning behind their inability to keep their games up in the first week following launch. It’s as if they suddenly were hit with millions of unexpected players year after year. Let me tell you, I know people in both fan bases of these games, and those who aren’t. Their opinion of the games rarely changes, because the games rarely change in any dramatic way. You either play these games every year when they come out or you don’t. It is set in stone I promise you. How can you developers fail to figure out how many people are going to play your game? I simply can not begin to understand the level of ineptitude present in the gaming industry when it comes to this issue in particular.
Ignorance is Forgivable, Incompetence is Not
Now, I may be slightly forgiving if they just suck at figuring out an accurate playerbase, because I could see this being an issue for smaller developers creating new IPs unsure of what popularity the game will have. Obviously, you don’t want to find yourself paying for twice has much server capacity as you need to be in this situation, because I’m sure your budget is already pretty limited. However, as I said before it’s not as if there hasn’t been hundreds of previous iterations of multiplayer games that are similar to the one you are releasing.
As unique as you think your game is there have been at very least a couple very similar to it. Use these games to help create your baseline for an expected playerbase. The concept to me doesn’t seem that difficult to wrap your head around. Of course, there is much more that goes into it, but that’s why you find people have jobs in demographic analysis and other comparable professions that are there to fix these problems. Hire one, develop an expected playerbase, whatever that number is bump it up by 10%, done. You did it, you’re the first multiplayer game developer ever to not have your servers meltdown the first week the game is available.
Damn, I’m good. I should get paid for this. I’ll make sure to put Playerbase Consultant on my resume right next to Broke King Blogger. I’m looking forward to your phone call. I’m only available April 31 though, because that seems to be the only day of the year that all the multiplayer developers get together to figure all this out and work the numbers. I wouldn’t want to work more than the industry standard ya know? I’m no overachiever by any means. The good thing is I’ll be in like company.
The Consumers Need to Act
In my opinion the issue at hand doesn’t seem insurmountable by any means. Why it has become such commonplace is likely because these companies don’t receive enough blowback when they do have these issues. There is too much excuse making by the players on behalf of the developers. I have absolutely been guilty of this in the past. We need to stop being okay with incompetence or simply laziness within the industry. Stop normalizing launch day server crashes of these games. They should not happen.
I am not in any way calling for a boycott of sorts of these companies that continue to struggle with launch day crashes. On top of that, obviously I do not want to see threats towards developers or anything of the sort take place either. However, we have been granted a special tool in our society, albeit one that is not always used responsibly. That tool is social media, specifically Twitter. Generally speaking, it has been wildly misused in my opinion to ruin people’s lives. That being said, if the gaming community would put in half the effort that the general public does to mess with people’s lives I honestly believe we would see companies take these issues more seriously.
Besides the generic call to action, social media warrior, hashtag movement, or whatever you want to call it, I think that if more people just became more competent consumers it would help immensely by itself. Maybe don’t preorder the every shiny new game you see 6 months in advance. Look for the red flags that will appear leading up to a game’s release. They’re really not that hard to spot if you’re looking. Watch for things like launch delays, early in game footage, whether or not they’re showing purely cutscene footage or if they actually show live gameplay, things like that. There can be issues with this as well though, when you have developers/publishers that just straight up lie about what’s going on behind the scenes, and play it off like they’re really trying to ensure they put the best version of their product out there.
*Cough* – Cyberpunk 2077 – *Cough*
The bottom line is that we need to stop the excuse making for these companies. That is the inarguable necessity we must make peace with now, or nothing will ever change. Stop making it easy for these gaming companies to continuously underperform, and take advantage of the consumers’ desire to play the game, broken or not. Demand better, make their lives a PR nightmare when they deserve it. We have let too much go for too long, and now we have to deal with the consequences of our own weakness.