South Park: The Fractured But Whole, Horizon Zero Dawn, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Scalebound, Crackdown 3, Gran Turismo Sport…once upon a time, these were some of the biggest games of 2016. Now, they are shaping up to be the biggest games of 2017.
If you feel like more games are getting delayed now than ever before, you’re not necessarily going crazy. If you really want to break down the numbers, you’ll find that the average number of games delayed every year over the last five years or so hasn’t really changed much, but when it comes to game delays, the problem isn’t really the numbers so much as it is the culture.
Gamers everywhere are starting to expect game delays. In fact, it’s become something of a tradition for publications everywhere to publish a list at the beginning of the year or after every major trade show that predicts which games are going to be delayed. While there will always be some gamers who raise their voice in anger when their favorite upcoming title doesn’t’ meet its release date, the general culture of video game delays is becoming one of acceptance.
In the past, the argument for this mindset has always been that game delays are ultimately a good thing because they allow developers to properly craft their projects and not release something that is unfinished. In the words of Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” Eventually, most arguments against a game getting delayed are countered by that very statement.
The problem is that Shigeru Miyamoto said those words in reference to a very different time in the video game industry when all but the largest game developers were often forced to meet a deadline no matter what. This resulted in fewer game delays, but more rushed games that were indeed bad forever. Now, however, those same words are typically spun into a PR statement to justify every delay with as few details as possible. From South Park‘s delay reason of “The development team wants to make sure the game experience meets the high expectations of fans,” to Gran Turismo‘s developers clarifying that they don’t want to “compromise the experience in any way,” just about every game delayed these days is typically explained with the same general statement.
It is there that the culture of video game delays must change. Since we’re too far gone to reverse course and go back to a time when the pressures of a 24-hour media cycle and an increased emphasis on publicity didn’t cause some publishers to jump the gun a bit on release dates, and since “when it’s done” is not a release date that every developer can get away with for business reasons, then it is time that studios capitalize off the increased inevitability of game delays and understand that little more insight into specific issues that cause these delays will allow them to stand out from a legion of competitors that do not offer such basic information.
It’s not much, but when you’re seeking change, every step forward is progress.