“The fear of history repeating itself has broken the community’s will to push back leading to what will become an exponential increase, and ultimately the normalization of further release date pushbacks for years to come, more than that though, they will be met with little to no resistance.”
Video Game Delays to the Moon!
What has happened to the gaming community? Have we become so desensitized to video game delays that we have just accepted them has commonplace? Release date announcements used to carry some weight, but now they seem to be treated as a 6-8 month release window. Could you imagine if Skyrim was delayed and missed its iconic 11/11/11 release date? That idea just seems blasphemous to even consider, and rightfully so.
There used to be mass community uproar when video games would get delayed. It would seriously impact the community’s view on development teams as a whole, as well as dampening overall expectations for the games themselves, and leading to noticeable losses in opening sales. I’m not saying we need to see the return of death threats aimed at the developers, because that should never happen under any circumstances. However, we can’t just keep taking these delays on the chin with a smile on our face.
For example, look at how Spring 2022 became the most stacked game launch window we’ve seen to date for this new generation of consoles. Nearly every game in that window was pushed back, many an entire quarter, and every time they were met with almost no pushback whatsoever from the community. More often than not they were actually widely commended for delaying their game as if it were a hard earned achievement every developer strives for. Give me a break. I’ve got one word to describe what the gaming community has become in the last couple years, and I’ll spell it out for you. S-A-W-F-T. SAWFT! Soft as baby shit to be more specific.
Beaten, Battered, and Abused
If you’re reading this and find yourself thinking “okay boomer”, then you’re not alone. I also immediately thought there were “get off my lawn” vibes emanating from that last sentence, but hear me out. It’s not as if the gaming community has gotten this way naturally. They have been beaten down by an endless flow of unfinished games being released, games remaining in a playable beta form for years on end only to be tossed aside when they finally seem to be coming along, and finally, I believe the Cyberpunk 2077 launch debacle broke the community’s will to fight back.
Many, including myself, looked to Cyberpunk as the game of the decade that’ll be around for years to come similar to how GTA 5 has continued to hang around and stay popular. After enduring the biggest let down of our gaming lives simply because the higher-ups at CD Projekt Red pushed out a game that wasn’t ready, and openly lied about the lack of progress being made with the game I can absolutely understand the hesitancy of criticizing another company’s choice to delay their game. After such a blow I found myself personally wrestling with this existential crisis.
What gives me the right to express my frustration with a developer for ensuring their product is ready for release? Did we push Cyberpunk too hard? How do we keep this from happening again? It wasn’t until after we had learned about what was going on behind the scenes at CD Projekt Red that I was able to get a handle on how I wanted to deal with future delays. It is clear that the Cyberpunk 2077 disaster is a very unique situation, and it should be taken with a grain of salt. Although, it is definitely something the industry should use, study, and learn from in order to make sure something like that never happens again. I mean just look at it.
How to Heal a Broken Community
Where do we go from here? The damage has been done, precedents have begun to be set. Launch delays have already reached critical mass, and show no sign of slowing down. The community has all but rolled over and submitted to this new way of life. That being said, I don’t think the damage is irreversible. There are still clear pathways available for us to take and turn this thing around before it is too late and we become set in our ways, and make no mistake that will happen if we continue to just roll over and accept the endless onslaught of launch delays.
First and foremost, the publishers for these games need to stop announcing release dates unless they are sure they’ll be able to meet it. That sounds simple enough right? It is not necessary to continue to put all of the added pressure of having an officially announced released date on your developers when the development process alone is stressful enough to deal with. I understand timelines are needed to continue to receive funding and support for your game, but quit rushing the process.
Creating a game is a delicate operation, and these developers just want to create the best game possible. Most of them aren’t even really in it for the money or the awards. All they want to do is have their handprints on something special that others enjoy to play. These are the games that end up being talked about for years to come, and in many cases change the way others approach future games.
“… profit can not be the leading motivation when creating a game”
These aren’t your yearly reskinned shooters and sports games I’m talking about here either. I am referring to the new, fresh, and unique forms of art that help to move the industry forward. The Witcher 3, GTA 5, Horizon Zero Dawn, Valheim, Valorant, Ghost of Tsushima. These are the IPs I am referring to when I say industry changers. Each one has grown into something special, none were rushed through a corporate lead development process, and all of them changed the way games in their genre are looked at moving forward.
Am I saying we aren’t allowed to be motivated by profit when creating a game? No. Clearly that part of it is necessary, otherwise all we would have is a bunch of small indie developers making games, and we’d rarely see a AAA game. My point is that profit can not be the leading motivation when creating a game, or more often than not you will see games facing similar fates upon release as Cyberpunk 2077 did.
As far as the community goes, we just can’t keep handing out awards and praise to every company that chooses to push back their games. It is really that simple. Show some heart, express your frustration, show them that you care enough to tell them when they’ve made a mistake. You also have to be somewhat informed, and know when it is appropriate to verbally crucify these companies and when it is not. Sometimes it is necessary to delay games in situations like what happened to New World. Amazon Studios announced that they would delay the game after players experienced a significant amount of bugs while playing the limited time beta. This helped their launch to go much smoother, and they were then able to focus on other issues that popped up at launch like the servers being full after having more player traffic than expected.
We can’t be crucifying every company that delays their game, but at the same time you can’t just accept regular launch delays as the new normal. Stop letting the Cyberpunk situation scare you into being bullied by these publishers, or I promise you delays will become a regularity. This is my prophecy, and my prophecy is truth.