Fall 2014 will be remembered as the “fall” of some of the most anticipated games in the so-called next-generation of consoles. While Destiny was defined as repetitive, and we can accept that claim because it is based on the true gameplay, titles like Assassin’s Creed Unity and The Crew were completely bugged, somehow unplayable, a true shame for products for which people invest $70 or more.
Watch Dogs was a huge disappointment, too. Ubisoft Montreal started the season of the downgrades with its much anticipated game, pushing down the overall quality of the graphics and removing features that were promised at the presentation of the game. This could be quite frankly called “cheating” on the gamers, who effectively bought a game and play another one: especially on PC, many gamers, even though they possessed high-spec machines, had to reduce the quality of game in order to have a decent amount of frames per second. That happened with AC:Unity, too, and people are starting to be worried about Tom Clancy’s The Division and Rainbow Six Siege.
The video games industry is rapidly changing. The way gamers buy and consume their games, and the way games themselves are offered, is pretty different from just a couple of years ago. Game critics are changing, too. But what is the reason of this process?
I could easily answer that the main reason is the expansion of Internet. Internet is continuously extending from the last few years and the next-gen consoles are the result of this diffusion. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were meant to be “always-online” and, even though there is no DRM anymore, games struggle to support this feature.
Titles like DriveClub have had growing issues over the last months, and now publishers, such as Sony, are trying to prevent the arrival of reviews before the day one, because game does not meet the expectations and have several network problems. Furthermore, Evolution Studios announced that an extensive trial version of the game would have been available for the PlayStation Plus’ subscribers, in time for the arrival of the complete release. This never happened, as you could recall, and the official reason is that the developer did not want to “waste” bandwidth on the already overpopulated servers. I know lots of people who are still waiting for DriveClub PlayStation Plus Edition, but probably it won’t see the light of the day because, at this point, it could harm the sales of the complete game. Yes, you are right: it is another missed promise.
We should get more conscious of what we buy and search for information from trusted channels. Great websites and magazines have become unreliable simply because they work to have contents published before their competitors; rushing reviews means to offer an often incomplete judgement on a game, and this leads consumers to invest on titles that don’t deserve their money. Many websites are not reviewing Evolve until it is not fixed enough to not be a failure. That’s what I meant by saying “game critics are changing”, they are adapting to what the game industry has offered them last year, while they should push for a change of the game industry itself.
Furthermore, day one should not be an obsession. Gamers should learn to wait for the games they are interested in, even more if they are heavily online-based, because they won’t get any refund if those products have issues as the ones Evolve had in the Big Alpha and Beta.
We should also, finally, understand where the true value is. Software houses like CD Projekt RED show us there’s still something good in the triple-A industry: the Polish studio refused to launch an incomplete version of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and delayed it not once, but twice. This meant money lost, but gain of trust in front of its public, that appreciated the great level of loyalty – and the 16 DLCs granted in the coming months as a compensation.
One day greater publishers as Ubisoft, Electronic Arts (that unexpectedly is not the most hated gaming company in the world anymore), 2K and Activision will hopefully take note of this example.