Taking Games to Task


By Bill Tressler

Photo courtesy of vavva_92.

Any gamer who’s worth their salt knows that there’s an unfortunate trend going on in the gaming world as of late: some titles are coming out broken.

The gaming industry is enjoying massive success; video games have never been more popular. Nowadays, gaming is very much a part of mainstream culture. It’s not uncommon to meet a Call of Duty or League of Legends addict. Even popular late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien partakes in the pastime with his “Clueless Gamer” bit, a hugely popular series that often features celebrities and athletes.

Profits in the gaming industry are among the highest they’ve ever been, and the sector has been growing four times faster than the US economy in recent years. With the budgets of AAA titles being as large as they are, why are consumers seeing so many games being released seemingly unfinished?

Image courtesy of Bago Games.

The list of buggy releases is nigh on endless. The Master Chief Collection, a highly anticipated bundle of the core Halo games, was released with an all-but-unplayable multiplayer experience. Popular Telltale Games titles The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones were plagued by game-erasing bugs and constant crashes. The recent release of Batman: Arkham Knight was greeted by an avalanche of bug reports from players, culminating in the complete halting of sales on the PC’s Steam platform until the game is fixed.

There are a multitude of reasons for this trend. For one, game production is incredibly difficult. Rapidly advancing technology, which allows for more entertaining and graphically-impressive games, also makes the development process more complicated. More and more intricate coding is required, leaving open much greater room for errors to occur.

Image courtesy of Clinton Keith.

The most commonly cited reason, however, is the break-neck speed of the development and publishing cycle. When an AAA title enjoys success, the publisher/developer usually tries to capitalize on it through sequels or downloadable content (DLC). Publishers tend to target the holiday season as a prime release date for their titles, as that’s when the industry does the most business. They push developers to crank out franchise titles with strict deadlines, like Activision’s one-a-year Call of Duty plan. This pressuring quantity-over-quality philosophy often leads to mass-produced, mediocre games met with fan backlash and negative PR for the companies involved.

The back and forth between developer and publisher is usually a boon to the gaming industry. Even if developers attempt to focus on the art of making a quality game, many of them are beholden to their publishers, who tend to focus on profitability over playability.

The game industry, like most others, is a profit-driven one. Until the day comes that publishers and fans alike are willing to wait on a more polished product, rather than a timely one, consumers will continue to get games that have their fair share of flaws on launch.