We all love a game with lots of polish and all those finishing touches that help sell the game’s world to the player. I’m also certain that many gamers would rather a developer take the time to make sure a game is done right as opposed to rushing a subpar product out the door. However, if a game stays in the oven too long, the costs start stacking up higher than a Lumines newbie’s playing field.
Those rising costs can make it difficult for a game to become profitable once it launches, and according to Wedbush Morgan’s Michael Pachter, everyone’s most beloved or hated pixel predictor, this might be the fate suffered by Take-Two’s new release, Mafia 2.
Noting the long development cycle, Pachter had this to say:
"With six years in development, we believe the game is unlikely to achieve profitability.
Game delays have become the norm at Take-Two, and we expect the company to announce a shift in release dates for LA Noire out of 2010 and into 2011."
Yes, you did read that correctly. It took them six years to make Mafia 2. Six years of paying directors, designers, animators, concept artists… you get the idea. As that budget keeps growing, so does the number of units they need to sell in order to turn a profit on the game. And since gamers aren’t bashful about wanting to buy games used when they only have lukewarm feelings about them, profitability may be a tall order for Mafia 2.
Pachter went on to say:
"With longer development cycles, Take-Two has a profitability threshold higher than its peers. We believe that the company must focus on streamlining its development process and providing better visibility on future game releases."
While I don’t often agree with much of what Pachter has to say, I do think he makes a good point here, as the comments regarding Take-Two’s notoriously long development cycles can be applied across the industry. We’ve already had Naughty Dog speak about their struggles with developing games with AAA budgets, and now we have Take-Two in a position to lose money due to overly long development.
For the industry to thrive, games need to be developed within a publisher and developer’s financial means while maintaining a quality product. There is no reason a game such as this should take six years to develop. While the occasional game can benefit from an extended development period, we’ve seen games like Alan Wake, which also spent a long time under the knife, get eaten alive by the pace at which the industry evolves, resulting in a game that could have been groundbreaking years ago but shows its age upon release now.
It’s your turn to shout, Ranters. Are these ridiculously long development cycles not only hurting publishers' ability to turn a profit, but, more importantly, are they hurting the potential for a game to be received well in the context of the time in which it was released? And what’s the hold up anyway? Aren’t all these games, Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, Mafia 2, just differently skinned variations on the same basic game anyhow?
Mafia 2 is currently available for both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3.