There is an unsettling trend happening within the gaming industry. More frequently, big budget games are either being released as unfinished messes, or soulless franchise additions. I’ve lost count of how many times a game has been virtually unplayable at launch, due to an oversight that resulted in a performance issue. I could take a huge chunk out of my student loans with all the money I’ve spent on games that over promised but ultimately lacked any true form of substance. So what is it exactly that brings a company to ship a $60 coaster before its been adequately tested? In the age of online transparency you would think these developers and publishers would use the extra mile to ensure that consumer trust stays strong. Across the internet cries of “stop pre-ordering,” and “don’t buy on launch” echo from the communities. While this may be an appropriate strategy to combat the audacious offenders, what does this actually mean for the gaming industry?
Broken Games Being Released
Just take a look at the behavior of recent AAA titles and tell me something isn’t wrong. We now live in a world where game breaking issues don’t spell the end for the poorly optimized games, rather they’re considered a “whoopsie daisy, let’s try again.” Too often we see a bad port version of a game released that doesn’t even provide a playable frame rate for PC users? That same day the company who royally screwed the pooch, maybe by outsourcing to an under qualified development studio, will release a press statement declaring that their team is working on a solution; i.e. they’ll dole out a series of patches over the next month that will improve the performance, while you twiddle your unused thumbs and stare at your expensive Dishonored 2/Arkham Knight newsreels. How about when a game is released with so many bugs that you fear for the mental health of your CPU/console? There is no bigger slap in the face than realizing the game you just paid for isn’t compatible with anything but NVIDIA graphics cards, even though your AMD graphics card meets the requirements.
The point is that this has been going on for some time now, and when you compare the last 4-5 years to 2017, not much of a difference has been made. The attitude we are met with is a half assed reassurance that this significant purchase, that could have been groceries for the week, is going to be…patched. It’s extremely insulting. An investment was made, based on the promise of previous successes and compelling information made available before launch. Now that we have arrived at the long awaited date we are left empty handed and bitter.
Unfinished & Underwhelming
An equally disappointing feature of recent titles seems to be that they are simply just not finished. Design elements are missing, animations are poor, and worst of all, dialogue and narrative are lacking. Seriously, how long have we been waiting for Mass Effect Andromeda? The fourth addition to the well renowned space opera series was supposed to bring an exciting new universe, new characters, and a story to rival the adventures of Shepard and his crew. Instead we were given a sad excuse for a AAA title, with truly mediocre animations, a lackluster storyline, and dialogue that borders on embarrassingly cliche; Editor’s note: I’d say its well past bordering on cliche and has crossed over into abjectly insulting to the intelligence of the player -Brettlind. This is not how you’re supposed to treat a legacy, especially when the Mass Effect series has brought so much to the fundamentals of the sci-fi gaming genre.
I was lucky enough to avoid being burned by Bioware’s missed opportunity. This is because I also adopted the model of not buying games on launch, following my extremely disappointing investment in Tom Clancy’s: The Division. My friends and I were so sure this was going to be an awesome collaboration between the TPS and RPG genres that we decided to pre-order, securing our spot in the day one antics. I’ll be honest, we had a lot of fun in those first 10-12 hours of dungeoning and playing around in the risky Dark Zone. We soon realized, in a very short amount of time, that we had experienced everything the game had to offer. It wasn’t even designed well enough to be a successful looter-shooter. I’m not one to bitch and moan for my money back, but this definitely felt like I was being cheated. At this point there isn’t a patch that could fix The Division. The game was basically a testing grounds for Ghost Recon Wildlands. Dick move.
Your AAA Title Doesn’t Mean Shit
This isn’t to say that 2017 hasn’t been killing it so far. In fact, the amount of successful AAA games that have released in these last few months is actually bit overwhelming. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild would have probably made up for any of the recent failures on its own. Yet we still have Horizon: Zero Dawn, Nier Automata, Persona 5, and even Resident Evil 7, which has made a direct case for how a comeback can be efficiently orchestrated. There is one very simple reason as to why all of these games have made such significant impressions, they were finished. Not only were these games developed to the extent of their potential, they were given the time needed to ensure that potential would be reached. If any of those games came with bugs or areas of opportunity, they weren’t debilitating features and could be overlooked.
We can’t rely on this many great games to be released every year, so something needs to change with the current standard. Consumers don’t want to waste their time. More than that, consumers don’t want to waste their money. How long will it take before the general population decides that enough is enough? My biggest fear isn’t that I’m going to keep wasting money on expensive video games that don’t deliver. I fear for the well being of the gaming industry, when the lack of pre-orders and day one purchases dwindles so much that proper project funding is no longer available. Eventually, leaning on the previous success of your franchise is going to stop bringing in those high profit margins. I can only hope the lineup in 2017 serves as a source of inspiration for releases to come.