When did rush­ing any­thing ever re­sult in great­ness?

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Nin­tendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto has said a lot of things about videogames, but not all of them have the tang of his pro­nounce­ment that “a de­layed game is even­tu­ally good, but a rushed game is for­ever bad”. It’s a straight­for­ward, ac­cu­rate ob­ser­va­tion, and one that he made many years ago, and yet it continues to be over­looked by even the big­gest game mak­ers. Hence we see Elec­tronic Arts push­ing Bat­tle­field 4 out of the door on its ap­pointed date – a week prior to Call Of Duty: Ghosts, cru­cially – when the game is plainly miss­ing a fi­nal layer of re­fine­ment. What does it say when one of the high­est­pro­file, most keenly an­tic­i­pated re­leases of 2013 is treated this way? At the very least, it says that EA knows it can get away with it.

Other en­ter­tain­ment fields don’t work like this. Gareth Ed­wards’ forth­com­ing Godzilla re­boot won’t ar­rive in cin­e­mas with botched CG se­quences, be­cause that would see it laughed off the screen. If videogames have an in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plex, the people who are sign­ing them off aren’t help­ing.

Con­sumers’ ex­po­sure to so many rushed, buggy pro­duc­tions has pos­si­bly had an un­usual ben­e­fit for some de­vel­op­ers, how­ever. Con­sider how easy it’s been for PC users to tran­si­tion to hand­ing over hard cash for the priv­i­lege of play­ing in­com­plete ver­sions of games such as DayZ and Rust. In push­ing de­vel­op­ers to pub­lish un­fin­ished work, play­ers have con­spired to build a new model where any­thing goes, over­turn­ing some of videogam­ing’s old­est rules.

De­spite what EA’s out­put may sug­gest, this isn’t yet an arena in which main­stream pub­lish­ers want to play. For Ubisoft, it must feel like a par­tic­u­larly un­com­fort­able place, given its will­ing­ness to put the brakes on even its big­gest projects when they’re not mea­sur­ing up. In 2012, Far Cry 3 was held back, and the ben­e­fits were even­tu­ally clear to all. With Watch Dogs, a game granted even more time to be fi­nessed, the com­pany has am­bi­tions to cre­ate some­thing to un­der­pin a se­ries to match the tri­umphant As­sas­sin’s Creed games. The foun­da­tions, then, have to stand up. In this is­sue’s cover story, we dis­cover how its de­vel­op­ers are meet­ing the chal­lenge.

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