IMHO: Delay of Game
The wait for a hotly anticipated title can, in the best of circumstances, be likened to eating at a fine restaurant. The wait itself isn’t that bad; after all, you have all of those delectable appetizers/other games to enjoy while you sit in the comfort of that $9,500 armchair. The waiter is absolutely pleasant, offering you updates on your meal as you sit and talk with your significant other/business associate/the nice folks at the table next to yours because you often eat out alone like me.
Then, disaster: The manager comes out to inform you that they are out of fish, and therefore, Diablo III had to be pushed back to Q2. Confused and hurt, but mindful of your manners, you reply that you will wait patiently until the next shipment comes in and continue wasting away in Arkham City finding Riddler trophies.
I lost myself halfway through that metaphor so I won’t blame you if you’ve had to retrace your steps a bit, too. The point, though, is that once that beautiful dish finally arrives, you realize that without one key ingredient, you probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much to begin with. That ingredient, the one trick in every chef’s recipe book, is time.
Time allows you to sit and ponder all of the possibilities. Time allots the developers and publishers of our fine industry the ability to slowly trickle information down your throat, just giving you that seductive taste of what’s to come. Time is the driving force behind a successful launch, and when handled properly, will contribute significantly to the reception of a game.
Unfortunately, we gamers are an impatient lot. It’s not entirely our fault, though. We’ve been treated to a get-it-now universe full of instant streaming, digital downloads, and high-speed (Korea: “LOL”) internet. We get frustrated when our Starbucks coffee takes longer than 20 seconds to enter our hand from the drive-thru window. Our entire lifestyle is centered on getting things done quickly.
A well-made game, however, deserves every ounce of time that we can allot it to be polished to near-perfection.
It’s unfortunate, then, how often we see a rushed product fly out onto the shelves due to a combination of popular demand and pressure from the publisher. Ben’s article from yesterday sums it up quite nicely; these fan-service sequels serve no purpose other than cashing in on a guaranteed sell and pumping out a product in as small of a timeline as is humanly possible.
Disparaging to an even further degree is the Call of Duty formula of putting out a game every year. This particular scenario goes deeper that the annual release, however, as three studios are simultaneously working on different releases for the franchise at any given time. What stands to fact, though, is the fact that the differences between the games are often exceptionally minimal.
To avoid these issues, we should simply allow the developers more time to perfect their work, absent of public badgering and publisher pressure.
Now, that doesn’t mean we should let them completely off the hook. Take Valve, for example. Recently, a group of activists – I suppose – took to the streets of City 17 in order to protest the lack of information regarding Half Life 3, or Episode 3. The game, which was at one point slated for a December 2007 release, has lived in the shadows of gamers’ minds for the past half-decade.
This lack of communication is genuinely inexcusable. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m the quintessential Valve fanboy, and that only heightens my concern for this issue. Unfortunately, as the image dictates, this isn’t a one-off problem for them.
As I mentioned above, a critical element to continued enjoyment of your waiting experience involves receiving regular progress updates from the providing party. Sitting in the lobby of that fine eating establishment in absolute ignorance concerning the status of your meal would drive most of us to outright anger. Such is the case for anticipated games.
In addition to timely updates, divulging any major setbacks is perhaps just as important to the audience, and sadly almost never happens. As we are all certainly aware of by now, Double Fine productions have raised over $1.7 million for the development of a new point-and-click adventure game. I believe that a major factor in the success of this campaign was the honesty contained in the description of the project. Take, for example, this excerpt from the Kickstarter page:
Big games cost big money. Even something as “simple” as an Xbox LIVE Arcade title can cost upwards of two or three million dollars. For disc-based games, it can be over ten times that amount. To finance the production, promotion, and distribution of these massive undertakings, companies like Double Fine have to rely on external sources like publishers, investment firms, or loans. And while they fulfill an important role in the process, their involvement also comes with significant strings attached that can pull the game in the wrong directions or even cancel its production altogether.
Imagine these conversations happening between developers and fans on a regular basis. There are likely many problems that would simply sail straight over the heads of most of us, but just having a reason in and of itself would provide solace to a disgruntled group of loyal followers.
I may seem like I’m repeating myself a bit here, but the facts remain: Trust goes a long way. Given the developers and publishers trust, we ourselves should have a much easier time of trusting them in return. We place this trust in their ability to create, develop and finish a project in as little time as possible while never once sacrificing the quality of the game in order to fit a smaller release window.
So let them delay Mass Effect 3, and let them push back Wings of Liberty. Trust me – when you sink your teeth into that first delicious morsel, it’ll all be worth it.