Hey publishers, please stop rushing to release your games as soon as humanly possible.
Look, this isn’t a particularly easy topic for game publishers. There’s a whole business side of this that I just don’t know enough about. A company invests all of these resources into creating a game and they need to time their releases to hit certain windows, I get it. But it’s such a mistake for a publisher to force a game out just to get it in under the bar for their quarterly earnings or whatever at the cost of the game’s quality.
Last week, Rockstar Games announced that Red Dead Redemption 2 was being delayed from a Fall 2017 release to Spring 2018. The news didn’t come as much of a surprise and nobody is broken up about it. Is it disappointing that a game many people are dying to play is even further away than we thought? Of course, we all want to play the game and Rockstar wants to cash in on their work. But do you know what’s more disappointing? When a game releases and it’s not finished.
We see it all the time, games that are released just a hair too early that would have greatly benefitted from a short delay. The most recent example of this is obviously Mass Effect: Andromeda. When Andromeda released in March, it was littered with problems that should have been solvable prior to launch. These weren’t difficult to spot issues either; poorly designed characters, bad animation, performance issues and glitches plagued what was otherwise a decent game. BioWare has since responded by fixing many of the problems in post-launch patches but the damage has already been done.
If the game you’re releasing isn’t quit done or isn’t up to a certain standard, you’re shooting yourself in the foot by not delaying its release. Nobody expects a developer to clean up all of a game’s issues prior to launch but it should be a functional, well polished product at the very least. Would Electronic Arts have probably missed some form of business target by delaying Andromeda an extra month or two for polish? Yeah, probably. But because they didn’t, the Mass Effect franchise may have sustained irreparable damage. Mass Effect: Andromeda was supposed to be one of the biggest titles of 2017 but because of the condition it was released in, it’s left a stain. EA probably cashed in on launch and that’s likely all they really cared about. But I find it hard to believe that’s what’s best for them, let alone us.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the most anticipated game ever and was likely going to be a strong candidate for the Game of the Year this year. Rockstar delayed it anyway because they understand the cost of releasing a game that’s not ready. Mass Effect: Andromeda’s controversial release has no doubt turned people off from the game and has hurt the Mass Effect franchise in the long run. So sure, you might get that quick payout to hit your business target but what was the cost of doing so?
It almost feels like some of these publishers can’t wrap their heads around the repercussions of not delaying their game. Nobody likes delays and they’re obviously not what you intend for when you pick a release date for a major game. But sometimes things change and you have to adapt to the situation. More often than not, a brief delay to polish up your product is going to be significantly better in the long term than just pushing your game out as soon as possible and fixing it after the fact. The money’s not going anywhere.