Once again, I have come to cheer you up on this Monday morning with yet another Reason to be Cheerful! Game delays are a part and parcel of AAA development these days, but are they really that bad?
Oh wow, this is the best trailer I’ve ever seen for a game. This looks so awesome, and it’s coming out this year!
[6 Months Later]
Delayed?! You mean I have to wait until the first Quarter of next year to play? But that’s aaaaages away.
[6 months after that]
Now this is just taking this piss, if the game wasn’t ready, why the Hell was it announced?
[Game is released – Skeleton sitting at computer]
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
“A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad”.
This quote, attributed to Shigeru Miyamoto and rolled out whenever a massively hyped game is delayed, has a certain sense of truth to it. At the time, he was referring to the delay of the Nintendo 64, due to his team finishing work on Super Mario 64, and in that instance, that now-famous quote has never been more apt. History looks upon Super Mario 64 as one of the best games ever made, after all.
Back then, games coverage was a little less concerned with the business details and release schedules. Infact, this was around the time when we actually had release dates for games, rather then them just appearing on store shelves when they were ready. Compare that to today, when every few weeks there is some sort of report on a particular Triple A game being delayed, and it’s only natural to feel a little bit of disappointment if the release in question is one you were particularly excited for.
I think we live in a time where delays are an inevitability. As I’ve said before in this series, game development is becoming more and more complex and resource hungry, with more people involved, and the amount of time, money and effort it takes to get a game on store shelves, always growing. A couple of episodes ago, I talked about the patch culture of videogames, and it seems that more and more games are released with minor bugs in mind. Sure, you could delay a game and fix those bugs first, but that could cost a publisher or developer a lot of money. Infact, delaying a game for any reason is costly and only used as a last resort.
Bugs aren’t the only reason to push a release date backwards. It could be an issue with marketing, a change in artistic direction, mechanics might not feel quite right – Any reason, really. It’s the nature of working on a big project to expect a delay here and there, and videogames are no different.
Miyamoto’s quote doesn’t necessarily apply to all games however. While Super Mario 64 is a shining example of a videogame, one only needs to look at a game such as Duke Nukem Forever to see how delaying a game can ultimately to massive damage to its reputation. Here was a game that had been delayed multiple times over almost a decade and a half of development, not only becoming the laughing stock of the industry, but by the time it eventually was released; public perception of the game itself was negative, even before anyone picked up a controller and played it. Ultimately, it killed Duke Nukem as a franchise.
But that was just one of very few exceptions to Miyamoto’s rule. I can count so many games that ended up being better after experiencing delays. Take Miyamoto’s own games – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess were all massively delayed and came out as phenomenal titles. Half-Life 2, Bio-Shock and the original Halo also suffered setbacks in development, and no-one could deny the quality of any of those games.
Take a look at all of those games, and you have your justification for how delaying a game can make for a better product. It’s all too easy to be outraged and upset when this happens, but really, shouldn’t we be praising companies for making the tough decision to sacrifice resources to make a better product? Given the choice between a heavily buggy or barebones game or a delayed one, wouldn’t you prefer a delayed but finished experience? I mean, look at the backlash over the lack of content in the recently-released Street Fighter V. Wouldn’t it have been better for that game to have been released with the modes we expect from a modern fighting game?
Of course, the almost cast-iron way to avoid all of these issues, is for a game not to be announced until it’s absolutely definitively coming out when expected. But, then you’re missing out on the fun and excitement of seeing the announcement trailer, being drip-fed information, reading website and magazine previews and waiting with anticipation for the day you can take that game home.
We should see delays as a good thing. For the most part, it’s a sign that we’ll end up with a better game – Shouldn’t we be happy about that?