New Video Games Shouldn’t Be So Broken

New Video Games Shouldn’t Be So Broken
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It seems these days that a big game just can’t launch without some kind of technical issue. The accepted response to this by both consumers and the press seems to be “well, that sucks, but it will probably get fixed soon”. That’s not good enough anymore.

I get that making games is hard. That publishers force deadlines on teams, that accounting for millions of players is rough work, that a myriad of technical complexities mean completely eradicating bugs is an impossible task.

As a paying customer, though, I just don’t care anymore. Why? Because right now, the blockbuster video game industry is taking more than it’s giving back.

Look at this year’s big holiday releases. Assassin’s Creed Unity has issues both hilarious and problematic. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has only just become playable on PC. The multiplayer portion of Halo’s Master Chief Collection isn’t working. And that’s before you take into account Sony’s Driveclub, a game that was broken for weeks.

For all these games – indeed, for most games these days – fans are harangued from the moment of their announcement. Preorder, preorder, preorder. Publishers want your money before the game is even out yet, before you’ve played it, before you even know if it’s any good or not (reminder: don’t preoder video games).

That’s asking a lot of the consumer! It’s asking for a commitment of up to $US60, which for most folks isn’t spare change. But it’s also asking for trust. Publishers are saying “Give us your money now, and eventually, you’ll get a game that was worth it”.

The state these major games are launching in is not worth that trust. In some cases, it’s an annoyance (I feel like Unity’s bugs are being blown out of proportion, PC woes excepted), but in others, like Driveclub and Halo, they severely impact your ability to even play a game, let alone enjoy it.

Most of the time, those bugs are eventually ironed out. If it only takes a day or two, that’s fine, like I said above, accounting for millions of players must be hard work. But I’m getting less comfortable using that seeming inevitability as an excuse for lingering performance woes (especially on console), or longer interruptions.

For one, it doesn’t sit right that companies can spend millions of dollars on advertising but not find the cash for more/better testing (or to miss a holiday deadline). A simplistic point of view, maybe, but I’m a simple guy. Money is money, and it’s spent wherever a publisher thinks it’s of most use to them.

There’s also the matter of timing. When I buy a game in November, I want to play it in November! If it’s not working properly until December, well, I might be doing other things then! I might have other games I want to play. I might just have other things going on in my life that I had to do, because I thought I’d be playing that game I wanted to play in November, when I bought it, not December or January, when it was fixed.

If a car, or DVD, or rice-cooker, or phone, or basically anything else launched with significant parts not working, or not working as well as advertised, it’d be slammed. People would demand their money back, and they would get it, because there is an expectation that when you pay money for something, it works.

Games don’t work like that. They often launch kinda-working, kinda-busted, and instead of making use of our rights as consumers we’ve grown accustomed to simply putting up with it. That’s admirable in a perverse way, because we love them so damn much, but it’s also a problem, because companies know that so long as you keep buying games that don’t work at launch, they can keep getting away with releasing them.

You could say that the current slate of 2014 games, and their respective woes, is just bad luck, or bad timing. Each game has its own developers, its own timetable and its own problems, so it might be unfair to tar them all with the same brush. If a few games launched busted, that might be the case! But when nearly every game hits shelves with something broken or missing, it has to be seen as part of a wider trend.

One that needs to be addressed. By publishers, yes, but also by you, the consumer. Instead of blindly preordering a game, try waiting. Let it launch, see if there are any server problems or missing features or broken components. If there are, either wait or move on. If there aren’t, you’re all clear. Buy the game and enjoy it, just like you should be able to every time you part with your hard-earned money.


  • Cant even get into the menu in halo. Update glitches out. Done everything possible. Even factory reset. Had the game for 3 days. Games are becoming more glitchy. NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

  • I’ve stopped preordering or backing kickstarter games completely now. Over the past few years, ive backed probably a dozen games, and only a handful of those games have been released, and most of them with a myriad of issues.

    Greatest preorder burn was for RAGE, which was about $100 to buy, and when it finally came out, the experience was lackluster and tainted by persistent and immersion breaking engine problems. I know many of the engine problems have been fixed now, but I preordered this game to get on the leading edge of the excitement, and that initial experience was so horrendously bad, I didn’t want to try again. $100, and barely 2 hours of gameplay.

    Woth the popularity of Kickstarter campaigns for games, its likely the marketing/managing hotshots of large AAA studios are of the opinion that if these games can release in a half finished and broken state and fixed later, thats what they can do. Unfortunately that initial consumer response when seeing a broken game taints not only that game, but any connected brand for a while.

    Everyone wants something now, they can’t wait until its been released, or wont push back the release in the search for a better, more reliable product. With so many games being created now, if you want us to spend a sizable financial and time allocation to your product, you will need to do better, because we aren’t coming back for second helpings of a steaming shit pie, just because you assure us the next few bites wont be as bad.

  • I always thought the older I’d get, the less interest I’d have in gaming. But I imagined it for different reasons: not having the time, responsibilities getting in the way, etc. I never dreamed I’d lose my interest because I have a moral objection to how the industry is being run.

    I looked forward to AC:U all year, sure that such a high profile game would be tested and released without issue. No such luck. I guess I’ll take my NZ$ and buy some DVD’s or something…

  • They should launch games like they wont be able to update it in the future, like PS2 games. Maybe then they would actually take the time to remove the bugs because I swear they just make a game. Throw it out and for the first few weeks, its like a beta test more than a launch. You get a few patches then finally it is how it should be.

    • I blame the convergence of console and PC gaming. Ask any console gamer about the things they hate most about modern console gaming and they’ll probably list off all the ways console gaming is becoming like PC gaming. The neverending update cycle, glitches and performance issues, retail games functioning like betas etc. etc. We never really had to deal with these things until the 360/PS3 era.

      Console gamers like the ease and “it just works” philosophy of console games that we’re losing in a desperate attempt to keep up with the raw power of PCs. So I agree, bring back the PS2-era mentality to console gaming.

      • I don’t think that is a fair statement to make. Nintendo now rolls out patches and there have been very few game breaking bugs, nothing like what is going on with unity right now. Many PC releases also just work and updates bring new content and balance fixes, not FPS fixes. It feels like to me, and I could be wrong, that they are working on deadlines that are too strict and don’t have enough time to add the required polish to a title.

        • It really has me thinking, especially with Assassins Creed Unity. What if they delayed just another week and made 100% sure they got out all the bugs they could. It wouldn’t have been such a disaster.

        • You can hardly compare Nintendo games to something like AC. You make a vast open world with high-end graphics that’s pushing the boundaries of the hardware, you’re going to hit bugs. Nintendo games are so basic that they don’t really have to face these technical challenges (not to say that making a Nintendo game is easy, just that their problems tend not to involve zeroes and ones).

          • I think Nintendo also has a it’s done when it’s done style of development culture. Where as Ubisoft needs to meet deadlines for sales.

            Developers don’t want to release buggy games. Play Testers do fill in bug reports about these things. But a decision made over these heads results in a mess being shoved out the door to the public. And the Executive who forces it doesn’t wear the blame like the people who made the game.

            Let’s say it takes me 3 hours to make a cake. Mix it, Bake it, Cool it and Ice it. If you only give me an hour do you think the cake will be as good? I now have only 10 minutes for the Mixing, Cooling and Icing stages if I don’t adjust the baking stage.

  • NBA2k15 worked for a couple of days at launch for me then took about 3 and a half weeks before I could play myplayer with out it dropping out mid game and losing my progress (when I could connect at all to begin with). Factor in I bought real money skill points across my characters. They refuse to refund any money and wouldn’t even reply to me about the issues and when they would be fixed. Not good enough and I’ve given up on 2k now because of it. Last time I played it still wasn’t even fixed 100%, it happens less often but when their server drops a connection it still kicks you back to the title screen without saving your in game progress.

    Luckily I haven’t played any of the other broken games this year but it always bothers me when review sites give games a high score and ignore the ongoing issues the games have by saying they will be fixed up later. Your point about wanting to play when we buy the games is a very big point for me too, I work full time and have other time commitments. I buy my games to fit into a window of time I can dedicate to playing that game and especially when it’s a sub par game to begin with I may have only bought it in the first place to fill a gap between bigger releases which means I may not play that game at a later date if it doesn’t work at launch.

    It’s a good move for you to be running an article like this, most major review sites are too scared to talk about issues like this it seems.

  • With downloadable updates we are all just beta testers now.
    Get the game for sale so money comes in asap, then fix it later.

    • So agree with this. Because of the Internet connectivity we’re now seeing more and more games get patched because developers arent taking the time to run through and check all the necessaries to gauge whether a game is going to glitch or not. To me it just seems they

      Get a deadline
      make a game
      Delay release of game
      Release game later
      Deal with problems as they come in

      With a big name like Halo this sholdn’t have been a problem unless 343 or MS thought to themselves ‘Hey. We’re releasing a game that people love. We’re gonna have pre-orders out the ring. Overhaul the graphics and release it’. Gone are the days where you buy the game and play with no problems.

  • Can I just add that it’s nice playing Nintendo 1st party titles that are super polished, with great framerates and very few bugs.

    Of course there’s plenty to be said (and has been said) about Nintendo this generation, but the difference in quality between them and AAA 3rd party developers is very noticeable.

    • While I agree and enjoy my Wii U and 3ds, on the flip side they generally aren’t doing anything too technologically new when it comes to graphics/networking/open environments etc

      • Ubisoft aren’t breaking ground with Assassins Creed though. It’s the same old parkour based, Prince of Persia rehash with retrieval missions for the last 7 years.

    • I was going to post something along these lines – well said, I completely agree.
      Although I hadn’t thought about @outbreak said either. I’d counter that their unique hardware would provide their equivalent issues – imagine if the Gamepad randomly lagged, for example. Nintendo gadgets “just work”, and work well, even though they’re unique in design and defiantly different.
      But fundamentally their technical bar isn’t set nearly as high as the competition in this generation (as well as the last) and so once the hardware’s been perfected there’s less chance of getting it all completely wrong.

      • That’s true, Nintendo do seem to have a higher standard and I can’t believe they would release something they know is completely broken.

    • I believe that Ninty’s “quality secret” is that they work on a game as though they could not patch it later. You know, like the whole industry did before Internet connectivity. That capability to patch a game after release which should be a blessing, has become a curse.

      Once upon a time when developers found technical difficulties towards the release date of a game they either slaved away to fix it in time or delayed the game. Or both. (Note that Nintendo often delays releases.) Nowadays, it seems as though they find these technical issues near release date and they just shrug and push it out of the door. I guess in their minds, the lost of trust from a buggy game is “patchable” while the loss of hype and allowing a competitor to release a similar game first that a delay could cause translate into loss of $$$ that cannot be patched.

  • This is why I play games a completely different way. Apart from a few exceptions, because I have faith in the Devs – Super Smash Bros, Dragon Age, Zelda – I never buy launch games. I have a backlog of 55 games to play, that I actually own – these are on my must play now list. This has several advantages – games are fixed (mostly) by the time I get to them, they’re much cheaper, and I bypass all the hype surrounding the games, so I know which I really want to purchase and play. Works for me 😉

  • A couple years ago I would buy into the hype train and pre order from my local ‘game’ shop ( crazy I know right). However after watching the Aliens CM drama unfold and how much Randy bent the truth in order to get pre orders, never again. You can’t trust convention demos & you can definitely not trust the word of someone who’s job is to market that game. Wait for reviews. Read a number of them. Go to forums. Try and make the best assessment of whether it appeals to your taste in games. Then purchase. I’ve been better of since both in the wallet and shelf space.

  • It also means the platform QA folks are not doing their job (or are doing their job, but getting overruled by the marketing/business folks).

    Wasn’t one of the justifications for the high platform royalties charged to game publishers to cover this sort of QA and stop these kinds of things happening that tarnish the brand of the various platforms?

    • I’m willing to bet that in a lot (not all, but a lot) of cases it’s probably the latter. A lot of the actual developers, QA testers and “ground level” guys are in their jobs because they genuinely love it and are passionate about what they’re creating.

      It’s just an unfortunate side effect that as gaming as evolved from basically a cottage industry into big business, a lot of the higher-up decision making positions have been filled by traditional corporate and marketing people rather than gamers.

      I’m generally willing to give big multiplayer games a little more leeway. No amount of limited in-studio beta testing can adequately prepare you for the massive stresses you’ll get on launch day when millions of players all try to log in at once. It’s still not ideal, and I expect things to be fixed eventually, but I can be a little more understanding in that case.

      But when single-player only games launch with these kind of problems it’s pretty much inexcusable.

    • I’ll still confidently pre-order nintendo franchises like pokemon and smash. Their quality is up there and I haven’t been burned once by them. They still have my confidence.

        • They haven’t and I am cool with that. If they do, then clearly I will stop pre-ordering. Also it’s not uncommon for the big nintendo games to go out of stock first day, they aren’t well stocked here…

          Also the Super smash 3DS demo sold me the game, I was at first sceptical of smash on 3DS but the demo was so good its like. “Yeah, I’m gonna get this game.”

  • Like most i was keen as mustard to get AC unity and the master chief collection but i will not preorder anymore for this exact reason more and more games are broken at launch and even with 20gig!!! day one patch and is still broken is unacceptable im lucky to be on unlimited Fibre Broadband so the big patches arent to much of a headache but i have other friends who are so fed up with the constant Data Robbers of broken games which costs them extra money on data usage aswell as the cost of the game.

  • What I find to be egregious is picking a game up day 1, paying full price, not buying used or pirating and getting a worse experience then someone who waited 3 months and picked it up on sale. None of those stupid pre-order bonuses could make up for paying full price and getting a broken experience because you were excited about a game and picked it up on release.

  • I am guilty of pre-ordering Unity cause I wanted the statue. I have all the AC statues but you know what. Enough.
    I will go from almost never pre-order to just flat out not. I will keep my super dooper Witcher 3 collectors order BUT even my Bloodborne collectors edition I will cancel.
    Enough is enough.

    Bring back Nintendo’s early 90’s QA. It is how they rebuilt gaming after it died in the 80’s from shovel ware shit and now we are headed back down that shovelware shit path.

  • We have become the beta testers, and it won’t stop until we stop buying broken games!! In any other industry, this would be illegal, why does gaming get away with it?

  • It has genuinely put me of this generation.
    I took my console and game back. Told the totally unco-operative staff that it was not fit for purpose under the trade practices act.
    There was a lot of humming and hawing and a phone call made, and me talking to customers about my experience whilst I was kept waiting, and they gave me a refund.
    I’m going to sit this generation out until they get their shit together and start releasing games as if they can’t be patched later.

    I’ve kept the Wii-U, never had a glitchy, unplayable bug-fest on it, and may pick up the occasional title on PC, but I’ve gone back to the PS3/360 games backlog and will just enjoy picking up cheaply priced games for it I never got around to, and picking up Nintendo releases as they come out.
    I’m over it.

  • Unity was expected (Ubisoft is having a poor run of late) and DriveClub was a complete unknown but fucking up Halo’s multiplayer – of all things – is an egregious mistake. I haven’t wasted money on it – but I’d be mighty pissed if I had. It’s Halo FFS – I’d never have countenanced the multiplayer not working (unless it’s exacerbated by the sheer number if maps)

  • Well said, I am done with this trend. I will actually put aside an hour after I buy every game because I know it will inevitably need some kind of trouble shooting to get working and that’s if it can even be fixed without a patch. Ubisoft you money grabbing f*&%s I will never buy a product from you again not after Watch_dogs not after Unity .. You can keep Farcry 3.1

  • If a car, or DVD, or rice-cooker, or phone, or basically anything else launched with significant parts not working, or not working as well as advertised, it’d be slammed. People would demand their money back, and they would get it, because there is an expectation that when you pay money for something, it works.

    Amen, brother. I used to love the Battlefield franchise, but after a year plus of not being able to get stable or reliable multiplayer (that’s pretty much the whole game, right?) out of BF4, I’m done with it.

    I think this trend of consumers hamstringing their own demands for quality is evidenced by mobile gaming. Most gamers know full well that micro-transactions in freemium games is a blatant rip job, but people will still drop hundreds of dollars on Candy Crush or Dungeon Keeper just to keep playing. Until there is a strong and unified stance (which is probably impossible) on not getting fleeced, the suits in the game industry are going to just laugh at your outrage on the internet while they light their cigars with flaming $100 notes (I just hope it’s Aussie money, so they inhale some noxious fumes from the burning polymer).

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