Although sales of PS4 and Xbox One hardware were impressive in 2014, many felt that the games available on the platform were underwhelming. While a handful of games fell short in terms quality of the gameplay, Assassin's Creed Unity took a lot of the attention whilst PS4 exclusive Driveclub was another serious casualty.
Promoted as a game where players could compete for fame and accolades, Driveclub's multiplayer effectively collapsed at launch, buckling under the game's popularity. Having initially been promoted as a PS4 launch title, the game was delayed so many times that many expected the game to run smoothly, not for its core features to be unavailable.
Not only did Driveclub not work as intended, but we are now five months down the line and the PlayStation Plus version of the game is also yet to materialize. The idea was that the PS+ edition would offer a pared down version of Driveclub, with less cars and maps, but Sony and developer Evolution Studios confirmed that it had been delayed because the servers just couldn't possibly cope with the weight of all of those extra players. Still, the hope was that the edition was still on the way, but Sony's European PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan suggests things may have changed.
Speaking to Metro GameCentral, Ryan explained:
"I think one thing that the industry appears to have misjudged in the generational transition – where there’s a lot spoken about moving to a more straightforward PC architecture that should make it easy for developers to come to terms with next gen and all of that – is I think the massively enhanced online ambitions a lot of developers and publishers have identified as one of the opportunists of next gen, appear to have been way more technically challenging than anyone realised.
And QAing this stuff… a lot of it is load placed on servers, simply due to concurrency. It’s hard. Again, that’s not to excuse publishing something that’s not fit for purpose. In any form of entertainment, in any business… whether it’s a washing machine, whether it’s a book, whether it’s television, whether it’s a video game you shouldn’t put something out until it’s ready.
One would hope, and certainly we’ve learnt an awful lot from the Driveclub experience, that those mistakes, once made, should not be repeated."
Given that Sony has been talking about server side issues for months now (and as recently as last week), most players will be unsurprised by Ryan's words, but what is shocking however is the fact that these server issues may have killed off Driveclub's PS+ version altogether.
"GC: I understand that you did a lot better than some in addressing the situation, but that was still three months. And… is there still going to be the free PlayStation Plus version?
JR: That’s still being looked at.
GC: You can’t guarantee that it will ever happen?
JR: I can’t say anything at this stage."
This will be uncomfortable to hear for many players, especially as Driveclub is the reason that some of them bought PS4s and paid for PlayStation Plus subscriptions in the first place. Many will also be frustrated with the idea that Sony – a multi-billion dollar company – cannot establish stable enough servers, even if it is several months or even an entire year down the line.
What is hopeful is the fact that Ryan also explains that "the lessons that we learnt in the context of Driveclub were many and painful, and will be applied internally in the context of every first party title that we publish going forward." And with Bloodborne and Uncharted 4 coming out this year, players won't have to wait too long to see if Ryan's words hold true.
Are you disappointed that Driveclub PS+ edition might never be released? Or did the game's launch problems put you off the game for good?