DEMYSTIFYING VIDEO GAME DELAYS
TIME WELL SPENT
If you’re the kind of person who keeps track of every single blockbuster game that has been released over the past couple of years, you’re bound to notice that a good handful of them weren’t actually released on schedule during their initial stipulated release date. As a matter of fact, you don’t even need to look that far behind. Just last year alone, the PC version of Grand Theft Auto V and The Witcher
3: Wild Hunt were subjected to a number of back-to-back delays, on the grounds that the developers, Rockstar Games and CD Projekt RED, needed more time to fine-tune the game’s overall playability.
Yes, we are well aware that that’s what all video game developers would say when it comes to justifying their decision for delaying their games, and more often than not, it’s merely just for lip service. Not for the case of the two aforementioned games though, as the additional cooking time has certainly paid off handsomely. Both critics and gamers were singing praises about Grand Theft Auto
V’s immaculate open-world setting when it eventually launched on April 14, a whole 10 months after its original launch date in June 2014. The same sentiments were shared with
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt as well, which even managed to garner several ‘Game of the Year’ awards from various video game publications for its engaging storyline and varied sidequests. Not bad for a game that was delayed for an additional three months.
There are plenty of other instances where delayed games ended up emerging as works of art. Bio Shock Infinite, as an example, was highly regarded as one of the best games of 2013 – a designation that isn’t usually bestowed upon first-person shooters – mostly due to its grandiose level design, and intriguingly complex narrative.
But it didn’t get to where it was without a encountering a couple of delays along the way. Initially scheduled for release on October 16, 2012, Irrational Games had no other choice but to delay the much-anticipated game’s release by four months, to February 26, 2013.
The reason behind it? “We’ve come to realize that some specific tweaks and improvements will make Infinite into something even more extraordinary. Therefore, to give our talented team the time they need, we’ve decided to move the game’s release to February 26, 2013,” said Ken Levine, Bio Shock’s creator in a statement.
But that wasn’t the end of it; the game was once again delayed as its February launch date approached. Thankfully, it was only for a month the second time around, as the developers only needed to perform a final bout of polishing and bug fixing. “I knew I’d probably get beat up in the press a little bit about it. But at the end of the day, if it’s going to make a better game we’re going to do it,” said Ken Levine during a preview event.
Bio Shock Infinite was finally launched to critical acclaim on March 26, 2013, five years after it began development in February 2008. Has the extra time paid off? Most definitely.
TIME WELL WASTED
This then brings us to a quote by Shigeru Miyamoto, the man behind many of Nintendo’s
best-selling video game franchises, including
Mario, Donkey Kong, and The Legend of Zelda. He once said that “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” It’s a quote that makes plenty of sense, but is this always necessarily the case?
Unfortunately, no. While there are a number of games that have benefited from the extra development time – as how Grand Theft Auto V,
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Bio Shock Infinite did – there are also quite a number of games that still ended up being downright deplorable despite being held under the knife for longer.
The PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight is a prime example. Although its intended late2014 release date was pushed back for at least half a year to June 23, 2015, Arkham Knight still somehow ended up being a buggy mess on launch day, to the extent where its publisher, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, were left with no other choice but to pull it off the shelves entirely – for another four long months – to allow its developer, Rocksteady Studios, to fix its many apparent problems.
If you were expecting the game to sail smoothly upon its re-release, you would be terribly wrong. Even after its four-month long absence, the PC version of Batman: Arkham
Knight was still fraught with all sorts of performance issues, including choppy frame rates and even crashes, regardless of whether your PC is running on top-notch hardware or not. So take that, Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto.
But strangely enough, it’s becoming increasingly common for video games to be delayed, as though it was part and parcel of their marketing strategy. The next Assassin’s
Creed title, for example, is rumored to be taking a one-year hiatus, and will only be released next year in 2017. This comes as a surprise – should the rumor holds true – primarily because Ubisoft has consistently been releasing an Assassin’s Creed game annually for the past six years, with the most recent one being Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, which was launched in October last year. The decision to withhold the game’s release for an entire year could very well likely be the company’s effort to relieve any ‘franchise fatigue’ that might be starting to grow on the series in recent years, so you could say that its ‘delay’ is a rather deliberate one. In case you were wondering, the next title of the Assassin’s Creed series is rumored to be Assassin’s Creed: Empire, and it would be set in Egypt.
If you thought patiently waiting for a year was bad, imagine what Duke Nukem fans had to endure back in 1996, when the high-octane sequel to the immensely popular first-person shooter, Duke Nukem 3D – which was already said to be in development, and scheduled to be released sometime in 1998 – only saw the light of day a good 15 years later in 2011.
That’s not a typo: Duke Nukem: Forever was actually a work in progress for 15 years.
While we won’t be able to chronicle in detail what exactly happened throughout those turbulent years – since the sheer amount of drama that took place would be enough to warrant another feature of its own – we’ll just highlight the fact that in 2001, its then developer, 3D Realms, were bold enough to defiantly say that Duke Nukem: Forever would be released “when it’s done” to anyone who asked about it. Yikes.
Anyway, seeing that Duke Nukem: Forever spent almost forever (pardon the pun) in development, it would only be reasonable for you to expect it to be, at the very least, the crème de la crème of first-person shooters. But sad to say, it doesn’t come anywhere close. The game’s entire premise revolved around the protagonist spewing out crude, tasteless jokes (which aren’t even the slightest bit funny), and it certainly looked like it spent most of its years collecting dust before being frantically rushed to completion in its later years. But let’s face it, you really shouldn’t be expecting a game that starts off with your character visibly peeing a urinal (in first-person view, no less) to be any good in the first place.
Judging from the string of recent video game releases, you can probably expect video game delays to end up becoming somewhat of a norm, as games can only get more ambitious and sophisticated over time. So don’t go unleashing a barrage of expletives on the developer of your favorite game just because they decided to postpone its release date, as they only have the manpower to do so much within an allocated timeframe. Instead, wait for the game to be released first. If it’s not up to your expectations, then only should you begin the verbal lashing.