When you preorder a game you're telling a publisher that you're already invested in their half-finished product. Although it seems like a great way of showing support, it also gives developers and publishers an element of safety that they (in my opinion) shouldn't have.
When you've already secured your return and profit, in a way it doesn't matter if a game is complete or not. Yes it may hurt your reputation when a game isn't received well, but sometimes that doesn't matter either, as Rocksteady proved last year.
People were annoyed when Batman: Arkham Knight was taken off Steam for months after release due to major frame rate issues. The supposedly 'fixed' re-released version suffered from similar problems, too. But will people buy the next Batman game? Very probably.
Aren't Bugs & Glitches Normal?
Certain exploits, like jumping into a certain section of a wall to get under the map, is a problem that will be solved if and when it's found by the community.
But what I'm talking about here isn't the weird, unfair glitch that plagues players for a day until it's patched, it's when the entire experience is ruined by glaring issues that should delay the game's release.
People won't remember that a game took a little bit longer to come out, but they'll sure as hell remember that they couldn't play it on release day.
So why are these companies allowing these game to be released and attacked by the community when they're inevitably let-down?
Preordering Is The Dark Side
Oh cool, you get a nice little bonus when you preorder this game that looked amazing at E3! Well I hope your Assassin's Creed: Unity music box (not even kidding) plays a consoling song after you snap your disk in half 'cos you see this monstrosity on your screen:
By itself, this is a hilarious glitch which I would likely welcome. Coupled with regular drops in frame rate and issues with multiplayer connectivity it becomes less funny and more a worrying sign of a half-baked game.
The issue with preordering is that it gives the companies a guarantee that you'll buy their game even if it sucks and is bug-riddled. They of course don't want to put out this kind of game but having to rely a little less on reviews and critics seems to drive them to acceptance of the sub-par.
In reality, there is no supply and demand problem that would, in theory, necessitate a preorder. When was the last time your local game shop ran out of the latest Call of Duty?
I understand the ease of having it delivered to your door when you order online and wanting it as soon as possible, but maybe don't panic-order on the first trailer drop and instead put your money down closer to release? I wanna see some AAA companies sweat a little before we all throw money at them.
Is Preordering The Only Problem?
There are of course many reasons for lackluster game releases aside from preordering, however some of these are unique to the game such as Star Wars: Battlefront being released to coincide with the new movie and therefore not having a campaign, so instead we'll look other broader issues which lead to poor quality releases.
Rolling Out Patches
It is now much easier to solve glitch and bug problems by issuing a mass bug fix via a downloaded patch. Now this is great so don't get me wrong. To be able to sort out problems after a game's release is a blessing we didn't have not too long ago, but what happens when developers and publishers become too reliant on it?
Patches can help prolong a game's shelf-life by keeping things up-to-date but that shouldn't mean they come out unfinished. They should be used to clear minor bugs that players happen to find, not to make the game playable again because they released too early.
DLC is another half-blessing along this same line of having a dark side. Companies can release games that don't have a lot of content and deal with it later, as we've painfully experienced with No Man's Sky when it lacked a whole load of content that was promised to give depth to the game.
Ubisoft took shadiness a step further with Assassin's Creed: Unity when they gave out the free 'Dead Kings' DLC as an apology for the problems on release... but downloading it meant you were then no longer allowed to take them to court over the game. Seems like they're assassins in real life too.
Pressure From Publishers/Investors:
There are times when the developers can't help but release a game early due to certain people of power who obviously want super big and fast turnarounds on their investment.
AAA games are a pretty safe bet at making sure you'll get some nice money back, with Indie games companies definitely carrying a higher risk to reward ratio. The people working long weeks with a million things to do every minute who try and make a great gaming experience for you aren't to blame.
Of course the Star Wars: Battlefront creators didn't think "Hey, let's go out there and disappoint some fans!". They're probably fans too that want to whip up that same sci-fi magic they they experienced when they saw the films for the first time.
How To Stop Problematic Releases
Stop Preordering Stuff... Please?
I've been pretty clear on how it's a major problem but I know it's not easy. It likley won't have an effect on soon-to-be-released games, but it will have an impact on release schedules in the future. The lack of revenue guarantee should make developers and publishers ask themselves whether their game is ready enough to sell after reviews and criticism.
Social Media Is Your Friend
Though there are obvious issues with this medium, social media is a powerful platform on which to express discontent as well as praise. When the voices of many are calling out for a game to be fixed and that they won't buy the next game by *insert developer/publisher here* it has an effect on all parties involved in the game.
Comments and reviews telling the developers what the community feels is important (such as the lack of offline and campaign in Star Wars: Battlefront) allows them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Granted these major problems ideally shouldn't happen in the first place, but the more attention is drawn to these things, the harder it is to ignore it and do it in the future.
In an age where you can contact people so easily it makes sense to try and get your voice heard. It seems like even the mighty Hideo Kojima wants to get an understanding of the fans.
You don't want to do those things?
Really speaking it's up to you in how you deal with the issue, but before you ignore everything and click on that tempting preorder button to get that exclusive Resident Evil 7 keychain that you really need, ask yourself if that's more important than actually playing the game properly.
Let's test you by showing you the cool E3 trailer for Resident Evil 7. Yes it looks great. Don't you dare preorder it.
Would you rather read about a more positive outlook on the subject? Here ya go:
I want to hear your comments about this! Tell me what you think below!