Thing that annoys me in the videogames business 1: Delays

Delayed games annoy the fuck out of me.

Now sticking to schedules and putting in the work and a bit of crunch to get things done is only right. In other words enduring some pain to get things done, is necessary. How often do major movies or albums get delayed by a year or or just months before their release? Hardly ever.

I know better than most how making videogames is a very different thing and that software development has a lot of unpredictable factors.

Just recently 2K announced the not at all surprising delay of Bioshock Infinite. Did this surprise anybody? Why did they even bother announcing a release date early on? The game is so crazy ambitious that the release date seemed near impossible in the first place and so it has proven to be. 2K Boston or Irrational now again, are very experienced bunch of developers, but even in their case, the game’s going to be delayed over six months.

The problem is that we think this is normal, we are not even surprised that another triple-A game is being delayed.

I’m not saying that unfinished games should ship. Not at all, I’d rather have quality.

One of the best publisher turnarounds besides Ubisoft in the last 10 years has been 2K Games. Both used to be mediocre publishers, but especially 2K has really been all about quality in the last five-seven years. That is great. Does 2K make money and more importantly profit? I think not. That’s something to think about too. However, they let their developers take their time (Yager has taken five years with Spec Ops: The Line) and that has greatly improved the games quality, but of course, 2K has also been more choosy about it’s projects and rightly so.

I question the wisdom of announcing release dates a year or even six months in advance. Uncharted 3’s release date was announced about a year prior to it’s release. To their credit Naughty Dog released a great game, but the crunch on Uncharted 3 was horrible and it was bad on Uncharted 2 as well. It kinda irks me that Rockstar’s development problems get some headlines but studios with better profiles suffer from the same problems too. It’s not like they dont try to learn, but still.

Making games is tough as Phil Harrison told me a long time ago. It really is. Developing software and developing features is an arduous task, but surely we could be better about our release dates. We have to as an industry, be much more professional and sticking to release dates is an important aspect of that. It is also a very tough juggling act: Ubisoft will always ship a new Assassins Creed on time because of the money involved. Same with Activision and Call of Duty, but those games have certain formula that makes predicting the development period a lot better than with, say Max Payne 3. 2K takes huge financial hits and risks by delaying it’s games and actually probably loses money on it’s games because of this. I have a really hard time seeing Spec Ops turning a profit after five years of development, but I really hope it does since Yager are a good bunch of people and 2K took their time.

I understand the sort of, let’s set our tent pole mentality and by giving a date, there’s something to aim for, something to wait for and of course, to send a message to other publishers/franchises, that hey, here we are! But, still, look at Nintendo; they give out release dates pretty much months before they ship and before that it’s very vague Fall/Christmas period. That’s still better than giving an exact date and then delaying the product. Sure, with Zelda they really keep fucking things up, but they are also quite vague when they talk about the release periods when it comes to that franchise.

From a PR standpoint, I do get it why dates need to be set, but I really think publishers and especially developers should be more responsible: we need to be more professional and learn to set realistic release dates and that probably means not giving out release dates so damn early. Though, that ties into the whole pre-order stuff that’s going on, but I’ll blog about that soon.




    • Atezki
    • May 27th, 2012

    It is really weird that even in 2012 there’s still these kind of delays, like with Bioshock Infinite. It was announced in, what, E3 2011 and now it being pushed to 2013. Must be hard for the marketing department to keep it afloat for two years straight. Excitement just doesn’t last that long, at least my interest slowly just dies down. Of course I will buy Infinite and probably it’s going to be a magnificent game but still, it has to hurt the overall visibility to the mass market.

    Besides, I have hard time imaging these kinds of things in the film industry, for example: Dark Knight Rises would suddenly be delayed until christmas. There’s no way something like that would happen, even if it isn’t a blockbuster like Batman.

    Maybe only in music business this still happens *cough* Chinese Democracy *cough* but that’s a whole different beast.

    Growing pains, perhaps?

    • Anonymous
    • May 27th, 2012

    Well, that’s a good point about music, where deadlines also seem to be quite flexible or in the air, but Chinese Democracy really is an anomaly. In music, things move much more quickly. When the album really is about to ship, then you book all the interviews, cover stories etc etc. So things do work more professionally there.

    Yeah, I really doubt Batman would not make it’s premiere date even though, it’s still being edited and really most films are being edited very close to their release.

    • Aguero
    • June 2nd, 2012

    I think what 2K is doing is great. Releasing high budget quality games but the problem is that development costs are ridiculous. Spec Ops is good example. I think it is a quite a good game, but not a blockbuster. I played the demo, okay it won’t tell everything but after playing the demo, i just thinked that this game won’t be a big blockbuster. Selling more than one million copies would be great.

    New Max Payne is good, but somehow it’s ridiculous how many bad guys he kills! Max kills more people than Simo Häyhä in the Winter War! 😀

    Also it’s sad how all the games i have waited very patiently have been postponed, Metro Last Light, Hitman Absolution, Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider. Is March becoming a new “november”? Now it feels that every high budget game will be released either march or november. 🙂

    • Anonymous
    • June 24th, 2012

    I agree,the industry need people like a mix between Ari Gold and dan houser. I think that gta v release date is unknow yet for this reason.What do you think about that,thomas,gta v in 2012 or 2013?

  1. I’m gonna comment on GTA V for various reasons. Let me put it this way, sooner rather than later.

    Anonymous :

    I agree,the industry need people like a mix between Ari Gold and dan houser. I think that gta v release date is unknow yet for this reason.What do you think about that,thomas,gta v in 2012 or 2013?

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