When was the last time that you went to pick up a brand new game, either at a midnight release or early that next day, and been totally fulfilled by it on day one? It used to be that you would go camp out with your friends at the local Gamestop for hours for the new Call of Duty, Halo, etc. and race home afterwards to play until damn-near dawn (usually on a school night, leading to an unplanned ‘sick day’). However, in the past few years, the excitement to pre-order and pick up a new game the day it’s released has waned dramatically, leading many people banning together to boycott pre-ordering new releases entirely. Why is this trend starting to resonate with gamers? Quite frankly, because a large number of games are simply not ‘finished’ by the time they are released.
I’m sure everyone now is used to the ‘day 1’ patch at this point. You come home with your new game and pop it in, only to have to wait 10-20 minutes for the first of many patches to fix errors, bugs, etc. Not only that, but recent games like EA’s Battlefield 4 and WB’s Arkham Knight were downright unplayable on PC on launch day. The latter, which released months ago, is still unplayable, and will likely be so for awhile. So what is causing this trend, and what can gamers do to fight against it? If I had to put the blame on any one thing, it would be the widespread access to high-speed internet and large share of gamers who play online. Why pay for your own game testers when the people pre-ordering the game will do it for you?
Some of my fondest memories of gaming are from the N64 and early PC days. You would go to the local Blockbuster, rent a game, and take it home to play for the week. No need to update, patch, or worry about game-breaking bugs; just pop in the cartridge (maybe after a blow or two of course) and you’re good to go. On the PC side of things, after a breezy install, you were set. Sure, you could dial-up to get a patch online if one was out, but the game was playable! Nowadays it’s frankly a breeze to release a game you know fully well is not complete (the business and financial reasons of doing so could be their own article) but that you can constantly patch and update, and maybe, possibly, eventually complete at some point. However, that raises a larger point. Maybe we’re in a transitional point in gaming; a stage in which a game is never fully ‘finished’; only ‘released’.
This idea of a game never fully being complete is all well and fine (to me at least), as long as the product released on day one is a satisfying and worthwhile experience for the player. The Sims 4 comes to mind, as many of it’s players have been vocal since launch about how limited and bare the initial game was. After being out over a year, they have fixed many of the initial bugs, and added quite a bit of content (charging for almost all of it, of course) but the overall amount of content still pales in comparison to it’s predecessors. The Sims community is fed up with EA and it’s methods of ignoring the thoughts and opinions of the community surrounding the game, leading many to refuse buying any additional Sims 4 content.
I could list examples of unfinished games for an hour, but I’m sure you have plenty of examples popping into your head by now. However, for all the bad ones, there are good ones too! Seeing that a game was delayed, for example, used to bum me out but now I realize that it’s a good thing. It (usually) shows that the developer cares a lot about the game, and really wants to get it right. Usually any game by the crew at Bethesda, Valve, or Rockstar is a pretty safe bet for quality. They firmly believe in releasing a product when it’s done, not when our publisher demands it in order to meet quarterly profits.
In my opinion, the best thing gamers can do to fight against the release of incomplete, buggy, messes of a game is to simply stop pre-ordering. What pre-ordering does is ‘guarantee’ to the publisher that you are getting the game. It empowers their model of releasing a game to the public that is broken and incomplete, only to possibly be fixed down the line, and completed with paid-DLC. Along with not pre-ordering, I recommend using sites like Reddit or other gaming forums to gather an informed opinion on whether a newly released game is worth getting now, maybe later, or at all. If more gamers communicate with each other, as well as support companies that put out consistently good games, hopefully we can turn the tide back to the way it was. Imagine that, a game that’s finished on day one.