It’s a simple fact when producing any product committed to a firm release date that sometimes the unexpected will happen, and you will have no choice but to admit to the world that you couldn’t get it done on time. While a big disappointment to many fans eagerly anticipating the day, nobody gets hurt, and a new date is later set and hit. So why does the story get so much more complicated when it comes to the gaming industry?
If you’ve been following Game Rant for a while, then you’re well aware that many anticipated titles coming out of E3 have had to announce delays in production, like Homefront and Gears of War 3. Not too long before those titles, it was Splinter Cell: Conviction that was being given the shove into the next calendar year. Valve even decided to delay the release of Portal 2, only weeks before they planned to make a grand spectacle of the game at E3. So it’s clear that even large-scale developers run into the same issues that any company does when working toward a deadline.
But these are the best case scenarios for the games when it comes to announcing a delayed release: the game simply needs more time. In the case of Conviction, Ubisoft had suffered a poor sales year, and decided to postpone the game to optimize performance in the next fiscal year. Game developers are out for profits after all, a fact that Epic Games’ Rod Fergusson, Executive Producer for Gears 3, also made clear by pointing out that the decision to postpone the release was “a business decision between partners, and not a quality issue.”
The business decision was to place Gears of War 3 in the holiday-shopping season of Fall 2011, as opposed to its previous date in the spring. It may not be the best news for fans to hear, but it’s a truth of the business that games are only made to be profitable, and if they are, we’ll get more of them. As an added bonus, it gives developers a bit more time to fine-tune their game prior to release. With Epic having already announced the improvements they’ve made to multiplayer by adding dedicated servers, who knows how many more tweaks and adjustments can be made with the extra development time.
With that in mind, a question arises: why even bother to announce a set date if you are aware that you might not be able to make it? The fact is that developers are charged with making the game, and the publisher’s job is to sell copies.
It’s definitely a relief to see a publisher giving a development team more time, as opposed to pressuring them to finish earlier. It’s never nice to see storytellers and artists being given directions by the so-called “suits” of the industry, or any industry in general. Just look at EA’s Need For Speed series, the decline of which EA has now admitted was their own fault, after making excessive demands on the development teams involved. While some may disagree with Microsoft’s decision to postpone Epic’s third entry in the Gears franchise, it’s hard to dispute their assumption that the game will sell better if it is released during the holidays.
And as with Valve’s Portal 2, and Blizzard’s upcoming Cataclysm, the developer in question has released enough quality content in the past to gain the benefit of the doubt that the extra time will ultimately yield a better product. After all, when Bungie finally released Halo 2 after several delays, that game went on to become one of the greatest entertainment launches in history, regardless of how the end product turned out. Keep in mind that Bungie was depending on the hype and buzz of only a single previous title, not an entire franchise. Ironically, some examples show that the more popular a property becomes, the more freedom that developer has to torture their fanbase by releasing a game whenever they feel it’s ready.
Valve, creators of Half-Life, Team Fortress, Portal, and Counter-Strike have become synonymous with “triple-A title” when it comes to PC games, and rightly so. By delivering games with such incredibly high production value and support through SteamWorks, and finding new streams of income, Valve now holds the keys to its own future. As a result, fans now have no choice but to wait for Valve to finish up Portal 2 and whatever other Left 4 Dead DLC they’re working on, and finally get to releasing Half-Life 3, or Half-Life 2 Episode 3. And we, the fans, must wait. To Valve’s credit, they’ve given gamers plenty to keep them occupied. Even the mere mention of their E3 “surprise” sent the internet into a frenzy over Half-Life rumour-milling. But such is the price of fan loyalty, it would seem.