Over recent years there feels like there has been a trend in the gaming industry to release games before they are what us gamers would see as 100% finished. Whether they are released as early access, beta versions or “completed” games in need of huge updates and patches to amend some major faults present from the games release it has brought up an interesting question. When is a game ready to be published? or more accurately at what stage should a game be at when it is published?
The obvious answer from a gamer’s point of view is that we want games to be released when they are finished. If we are going to be giving a company our money in exchange for a product or service we want that product to be up to standard and complete. You wouldn’t buy a meal from a restaurant, have it arrived half made and be happy with that so why are video games any different? Most developers are huge organisations, with hundreds of staff and access to large sums of money or the means to get more money from investors or other sources. So when they release a new title we should expect it to be ready for us to pick up and play (looking at you Bethesda) but it’s not that straight forward.
There is one huge benefit to releasing games before they are 100% completed, whether that’s releasing it in alpha or beta or in some smaller demo form. The main benefit is to generate interest amongst gamers and to help raise more money. This form of release is most popular amongst indie developers, smaller teams with fewer resources who need the extra income to help complete their project and who can use the early release to try to draw in fans without needing the huge marketing strategy of larger developers. Games like minecraft are a perfect success story from this strategy. When larger developers go down this route though it’s hard for me to see it as anything more than them trying to get money out of gamers before they are in a position to provide us with the full experience they are promising us. Larger publishers and developers have the income, the access to knowledge and experience and a far greater ability to research and test their games before launching them.
However, in recent times there have been a few games released in a “completed” form that have fallen short of their fans and gamers expectations. Whether it is No Man’s Sky the indie game that over promised and under performed, EA’s Star Wars Battlefront that while on the face of it was a fully completed game but which was so filled with microtransactions and so went against what gamer’s wanted that they had to go back to the drawing board or now Fallout 76. You may notice that two of these examples I’ve used have since updated, changed and improved their games and in the process of trying to draw people back.
In my last post I had said that I was holding off judgement on Fallout 76 but after what I have seen online and on Youtube as well as my friends own experiences with the game I feel I am in the place to at least comment on the game. For the record I have been a huge fan of Bethesda for many years and while I agree with a lot of the criticisms leveled against Fallout 76 if you have been playing and enjoying it then that’s great. And I am definitely in a position where I am open to being persuaded that the game is not as bad as it seems if you have any counterpoints you would like to raise in the comments.
Bethesda’s latest release Fallout 76 has had mixed reviews at best, seeing a 80% decrease in physical sales in the UK compared to Fallout 4 and having countless average to poor reviews (PC Gamer giving Fallout 3/5 Stars and GamesSpot giving it only 2/5) to date. One of the biggest criticisms I’ve heard is that Fallout 76 feels unfinished. Aside from all the bugs, glitches and crashes, the experience feels hollow and lacks any sort of emotional impact that would help players invest. There are no NPC’s, the story is almost entirely through in game computers and hollow tapes and the PvP is entirely optional and the incentive to engage so little that it feels pointless. That’s the criticisms I have heard and to an extent I agree with most of them based on what I have seen. Again I really want to underline that I have not played Fallout 76, and I know that there are gamers who are really enjoying the game and being able to play Fallout with their friends. But the amount of criticism Fallout 76 has received has dissuade me from paying the £50+ price tag which is something I have never felt before about a game from a major publisher which to me is telling in and of itself.
One of the biggest comments I have heard circulating around the internet from critics and fans of Fallout 76 is that the game is not finished yet. Critics feeling as though the full release of the game is not even in a stage of readiness you would expect from an alpha release. And fans of the game saying that Bethesda are working to improve the game and add to it over time and that the game will get better. This fits in with the question at the start of my post. Exactly when is a game ready to be released?
If you think about it, it is a crazy question to an extent. In any other industry from TV to Film you would never expect to sit down and watch a half done show. The games industry is obviously a different environment with different challenges but I personally think gamers should not have to pay full price for a game that isn’t complete with only the company’s assurance that it will get better. I would rather the developer held off or delayed the release then publish the game. To me it doesn’t seem right that the developer and publisher gets to run off with the full amount of money they were expecting for the game while you are not left with the full game you paid for.
So When is a game ready to be released?
Well in my opinion a game should only be released when it is finished. Any exceptions to that being only with good reason and I think in general us as gamers should expect more from developers then what we at times get.
In saying all that I have above though I am really curious as to how other people feel on this. I always try to keep an open mind and am open to people trying to change my opinion if I am not right. So I invite you to share your views in the comments below!
How “finished” should I game be when it is released to us gamers to buy?
What are your views on Fallout 76?
Whether you agree with me or not let’s have a discussion in the comments below and I’ll catch you later – Matthew 🙂
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