With the recent Tomb Raider reboot becoming yet another delayed game; this time not until 2013, it can make you wonder what’s going on in the industry.
This year alone, titles such as Max Payne 3, Darksiders 2, and Diablo 3 have all had various delays and set backs. To add insult to injury, today Silent Hill: Book of Memories was further delayed (after an initial bout of crippling setbacks). An arrogant fanboy such as myself can only conclude that either something is massively f***ed up inside every game studio in the world, or developers have caught a simultaneous bout of stage fright.
More importantly, you might notice what these games all have in common; they are all sequels or additions to a long standing series. These games have previous success and finances to bank on, as well as a strong fan base. Pre-orders are also popular. For this, the loyal fan gets rewarded with inevitable set backs; “thanks for the money, here’s the waiting room” and a pat on the back. Perhaps developers should take pre-pre-orders, just to get the point across.
What’s worse than this is that the developers don’t often explain why the game is delayed. “Adding polish” is management speak; if there is an actual problem, a loyal fan would prefer to know what it is, knowing it is being fixed. Is this something unique in the video game industry? If my favorite comic book turned around and said they were going to be late because they were ‘adding polish’ to the title, I’d have to ask what they were doing. Did someone forget to staple the pages?
Then again, anyone who has read Spawn is use to these kind of set backs. And a honest fan will tell you that it isn’t Image’s flagship title any more; constant delays drastically effect the fan base. If your product isn’t delivered on time, newer customers will move on.
Likewise, when a movie gets delayed or put on hold, there’s usually a reason. Conflicting schedules between actors, and changing directors shouldn’t happen in video games, so what’s happening behind the curtain?
One of the reasons might be the shrinking staff count in the average development studio; often for financial reasons. Newer generation games often take more people longer to make; more coding and polygon counts makes sure of that. The maths is already against the humble developer; cutting staff members clearly isn’t going to help.
Even with this, its still not clear what problems developers are discovering so late into a game’s development? Multi-player games can be excused, as late betas and tests often uncover numerous bugs and balance issues that need to be addressed. We can also forgive Diablo III, as Blizzard love to take their time, teasing their audience (but none the less keeping them updated and informed). Yet for single player games, such as Darksiders 2, one has to question what game-changing issues are being addressed. Game footage has been shown, with countless trailers advertising a game that’s near finished. Unless they forgot to add physics; or in case of Bioware, a fan appealing ending, its hard to determine what it is that’s stopping the game from hitting the shelves.
Maybe it is just stall tactics; the developers need more time and aren’t comfortable admitting it. Still, there should be a level of honesty between developers and the customer.