When Is A Game Ready?

Over recent years there feels like there has been a trend in the gaming industry to release games before they are what us gamers would see as 100% finished. Whether they are released as early access, beta versions or “completed” games in need of huge updates and patches to amend some major faults present from the games release it has brought up an interesting question. When is a game ready to be published? or more accurately at what stage should a game be at when it is published?

The obvious answer from a gamer’s point of view is that we want games to be released when they are finished. If we are going to be giving a company our money in exchange for a product or service we want that product to be up to standard and  complete. You wouldn’t buy a meal from a restaurant, have it arrived half made and be happy with that so why are video games any different? Most developers are huge organisations, with hundreds of staff and access to large sums of money or the means to get more money from investors or other sources.  So when they release a new title we should expect it to be ready for us to pick up and play (looking at you Bethesda) but it’s not that straight forward.

There is one huge benefit to releasing games before they are 100% completed, whether that’s releasing it in alpha  or beta or in some smaller demo form. The main benefit is to generate interest amongst gamers and to help raise more money. This form of release is most popular amongst indie developers, smaller teams with fewer resources who need the extra income to help complete their project and who can use the early release to try to draw in fans without needing the huge marketing strategy of larger developers. Games like minecraft are a perfect success story from this strategy. When larger developers go down this route though it’s hard for me to see it as anything more than them trying to get money out of gamers before they are in a position to provide us with the full experience they are promising us. Larger publishers and developers have the income, the access to knowledge and experience and a far greater ability to research and test their games before launching them.

However, in recent times there have been a few games released in a “completed” form that have fallen short of their fans and gamers expectations. Whether it is No Man’s Sky the indie game that over promised and under performed, EA’s Star Wars Battlefront that while on the face of it was a fully completed game but which was so filled with microtransactions and so went against what gamer’s wanted that they had to go back to the drawing board or now Fallout 76. You may notice that two of these examples I’ve used have since updated, changed and improved their games and in the process of trying to draw people back.

No Man’s Sky

In my last post I had said that I was holding off judgement on Fallout 76 but after what I have seen online and on Youtube as well as my friends own experiences with the game I feel I am in the place to at least comment on the game. For the record I have been a huge fan of Bethesda for many years and while I agree with a lot of the criticisms leveled against Fallout 76 if you have been playing and enjoying it then that’s great. And I am definitely in a position where I am open to being persuaded that the game is not as bad as it seems if you have any counterpoints you would like to raise in the comments.

Bethesda’s latest release Fallout 76 has had mixed reviews at best, seeing a 80% decrease in physical sales in the UK compared to Fallout 4 and having countless average to poor reviews (PC Gamer giving Fallout 3/5 Stars and GamesSpot giving it only 2/5) to date. One of the biggest criticisms I’ve heard is that Fallout 76 feels unfinished. Aside from all the bugs, glitches and crashes, the experience feels hollow and lacks any sort of emotional impact that would help players invest. There are no NPC’s, the story is almost entirely through in game computers and hollow tapes and the PvP is entirely optional and the incentive to engage so little that it feels pointless. That’s the criticisms I have heard and to an extent I agree with most of them based on what I have seen. Again I really want to underline that I have not played Fallout 76, and I know that there are gamers who are really enjoying the game and being able to play Fallout with their friends. But the amount of criticism Fallout 76 has received has dissuade me from paying the £50+ price tag which is something I have never felt before about a game from a major publisher which to me is telling in and of itself.

fallout 76.jpg

One of the biggest comments I have heard circulating around the internet from critics and fans of Fallout 76 is that the game is not finished yet. Critics feeling as though the full release of the game is not even in a stage of readiness you would expect from an alpha release. And fans of the game saying that Bethesda are working to improve the game and add to it over time and that the game will get better. This fits in with the question at the start of my post. Exactly when is a game ready to be released?

If you think about it, it is a crazy question to an extent. In any other industry from TV to Film you would never expect to sit down and watch a half done show. The games industry is obviously a different environment with different challenges but I personally think gamers should not have to pay full price for a game that isn’t complete with only the company’s assurance that it will get better. I would rather the developer held off or delayed the release then publish the game. To me it doesn’t seem right that the developer and publisher gets to run off with the full amount of money they were expecting for the game while you are not left with the full game you paid for.

So When is a game ready to be released?

Well in my opinion a game should only be released when it is finished. Any exceptions to that being only with good reason and I think in general us as gamers should expect more from developers then what we at times get.

In saying  all that I have above though I am really curious as to how other people feel on this. I always try to keep an open mind and am open to people trying to change my opinion if I am not right. So I invite you to share your views in the comments below!

How “finished” should I game be when it is released to us gamers to buy?

What are your views on Fallout 76?

Whether you agree with me or not let’s have a discussion in the comments below and I’ll catch you later – Matthew 🙂

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11 thoughts

  1. I’ve seen some indie developers use early access very well to engage with the community and change the development direction based on that feedback, but they are the exception rather then the rule. Too often games trundle along in early access, almost as an excuse for being unfinished.

    Releasing a hand before it’s finished does seem to be a growing trend (either under the banner of early access our otherwise) and just seems to reduce the impact of a game. Payday 2 (one of my guilty pleasure games) released with a tiny array of missions that initially turned me away from the title.

    I guess the trick is balance, and with many games choosing to continue development after release the line between finished and work-in-progress is going to get blurrier.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree! I can see the usefulness of early access for indie developers at times and I think there does need to be a greater balance. Over time the line between finished game and work in progress is definitely getting more blurred as you mentioned 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  2. On the one hand, I do agree that a game should be released when it’s finished, but I also think that the important consideration that sometimes gets forgotten is that a game can and should be finished. Don’t just rely on updates or plan for DLC that may never happen. Games should be able to stand on their own, and not try to live outside their means, as it were. I agree with things like early access for indie games, and definitely alpha and beta testing to work out bugs, but I also hesitate when I think of things like focus groups, which can cloud the issue and make it seem like a game won’t be successful or isn’t complete without that “one more thing”…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well put! It’s interesting when I posted this I wasn’t sure everyone would agree for some reason but what I’ve found so far is that at least all gamers in the blogging community seem to think games should be finished and stand on their own (with a few exceptions for indie developers etc.) it’s weird but it seems like gamers clearly want one thing but developers recently seem to be testing the waters and pushing out less finished games and seeing how much they can get away with which isn’t right.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, it’s been an interesting path they are going down. To judge from a “bottom line” perspective, though, they are doing alright, so I’m not sure what the solution is. Talking with one’s wallet is only effective if there are a lot of folks willing to do so!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I loathe this particular aspect of modern gaming, for exactly the reasons you describe. I’m a collector, but post-launch updates and DLC make many of the physical editions I enjoy collecting next to useless — particularly in the case of games that change significantly over time.

    I can put in a PS2 game today and have the same experience it’s always been. However, were I to put a Final Fantasy XV disc into a brand new PS4 with no Internet connection (or, say, in the future, when PSN services for that platform have been discontinued) it would be literally unplayable. That’s not good from a historical and archiving perspective!

    I’m firmly behind games being released when they’re good and ready. I’d also be in favour of developers and publishers scaling back somewhat so they don’t need a torrent of post-launch DLC just to break even on the project. The model we have now doesn’t feel sustainable, and it’s going to cause real problems ten or twenty years down the line when people want to look back on and analyse the games from this period from a historical perspective!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love your comments I never really looked at the state of gaming from that perspective but your right! A lot of modern games in 10 or more years could end up unplayable, needing discontinued online services. At a time where retro games are returning to popularity the games we now play may never get that chance in the future! Thanks for the comment, it’s a super interesting perspective to take into account. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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