Are broken games worth releasing?

Sam Blackburn discusses an ongoing predicament plaguing the development cycle.

Sam Blackburn
5th December 2016
Image: Ubisoft

Should games be released on time or should we wait for them to be fixed? In this age of online gaming, the novelty of games being released despite being unfinished has become more and more of a grim reality.

It can be in the form of an early access game or deceived in a nice plastic box with a pretty cover in the form of the original Watch Dogs. I’m going to use Nintendo as the prime example of what developers should do when releasing games. Try and tell me the last time Nintendo released an unfinished and glitch ridden game? Exactly, they don’t release unfinished games. Just look at Breath of the Wild. It was originally meant to come out in 2015, then 2016 and now it’s meant to be coming out next year. Sure, it’s disappointing not getting to play the game, because let’s not lie, it’s going to be a masterpiece. But you know what’s more disappointing than not playing that game you want so dearly? Playing it early, only to find out it’s a rushed and broken mess. Sure, this sounds perfect, right? Imagine if every developer done this? I feel like the only response to my previous statement is that not every developer can do this. Nintendo is a massive developer with the resources to do this. Plus you could make a Legend of Zelda game in which Link looks like Donald Trump and Zelda like Kim Kardashian and people would still buy it. Other developers don’t have the credibility and recognisability to get away with this.

“ could make a Legend of Zelda game in which Link looks like Donald Trump and Zelda like Kim Kardashian...”

Take 2014’s misfit sandbox game Watch Dogs for example. Ubisoft are a big household name in the gaming market, but they were struggling when releasing the new IP. After the game had already been delayed a few times, it eventually came out, lacking much polish with a few gamebreaking glitches. Ubisoft had obviously wanted to get this game out originally when the PS4 and Xbox One were launching, but failed to meet the deadlines. What’s the solution then? Release your game like Minecraft was.

This is totally idealistic, because so many developers would lose so much money by doing this, but it’s a release model I deem successful. Minecraft was released as a beta back in 2010, which cost roughly £10. The people who supported Minecraft in its early stages didn’t have to pay a single penny after it was released in October 2011.

An unfinished game which seems like it could have benefitted from this strategy? No Man’s Sky. Mainly because they’re of a similar genre, but I honestly think that if Hello Games opted for an Early Access style of release schedule rather than capitalising on the immense hype, the game would have been much more popular. I’m not for developers thinking it’s okay to release broken games, but I understand why it has to happen. Maybe we will see No Man’s Sky blossom into the game it was meant to be through updates. Will people still care? Probably not, but I’m all for it being super cheap in stores for flopping.

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