We Want Your Game to Fail, Too

The industry is stuck in its comfort zone, too. Commenters on yesterday’s post successfully covered most of my thoughts, so I will direct you there. Same thing: we need to experiment and sometimes stumble to learn. Heartless, amongst others, is hoping for that comfort zone to implode:

We really needed a big, AAA title to fail miserably trying to follow the old “release now, fix later” mentality.

Our own Nicodemus is predicting that we are on the upswing of a boom-bust cycle in MMOs, so maybe we will see that creative destruction in action soon.

: Zubon

5 thoughts on “We Want Your Game to Fail, Too”

  1. On the other hand, we have been “releasing now and fixing later” for about 15 years now. And we’ve had our share of AAA titles “failing” in their own way.

    I don’t think it’s a question of “learning” from our mistakes. If that was the case, and assuming the creators are indeed interesting in putting out quality products, releasing now and fixing later would have been abandoned as generally shunned as an acceptable business practice over a decade ago. In many cases it’s not viewed as a ‘mistake’ proper. It’s something you had to do, or happened and that’s it and be glad we’re offering patches.

    Comparisons between apples and oranges are as old as the Internet itself (or possibly even older, but no one was alive back then, so I don’t know for sure) so I won’t make them. I won’t bring up the old comparing it to cars or buggy whips or hats or wheat farmers. That said, the point remains that this industry, be it because it’s still in its infancy or because people think it’s silly or because people don’t know how to handle it, is still not as regulated as others. There are standards of quality, safety and performance that other industries are obligated to follow if they want to stay in business. Or at the very least, not taken to court because of false advertising or fraud.

    It’s not a matter of ‘learning’. It’s a matter of the industry getting away with ‘releasing now and fixing later’ because it can, and because they are not being forced to comply with any other standard (to my knowledge) other than a ratings one. Until then, ‘failures’ will keep being ‘business as usual’.

    Of course it doesn’t help that us gamers have our heads collectively up our asses and happily purchase these ‘failures’ one after the other, because we’re addicted and we have to have it, crappy as it might be. The market can’t regulate itself when it’s full of dumbasses and junkies. Ideally, publishers will get the clue that releasing unfinished or broken games is bad for business. But if we keep buying them, then it’s not bad for business in the end.

    Even if Halo 3 ends up being a truly appalling game, do you think it won’t sell? And if it sells well, what’s the incentive in making the next one better, other than a vague feeling of refining whatever shreds of craft there are left?

    We can’t keep playing with broken toys. The question is, do we force the creators to do their job right and properly? Or do we stop buying broken toys jsut to have something to play with? Both are good. Both are bad.

  2. Yeah, let’s not even imply that government regulation of game quality is going to help. Besides being potentially unconstitutional in these United States, as code is a form of First Amendment-protected expression, you have seen the understanding expressed by our elected officials. I wish that most of them were as sophisticated as “a series of tubes,” because that would be an improvement. Even if they were competent, the immediate effect would be to kill innovation and all the small studios. If you can face criminal charges for releasing a bad game, games will hew to a narrow path. If EA and Sony lobbyists get to write regulations for what constitutes “minimal quality,” no studio with fewer than 50 employees will be allowed to release a game.

    The only way to “force the creators to do their job right” is to “stop buying broken toys.” Every time someone pre-orders a non-functional game, companies learn that we will pay for crap that may be fixed someday. Every time you call for innovation then buy another clone/sequal, companies learn that breaking new ground is unprofitable. Every time you go for graphics over content, companies learn that pretty pictures are what make a game sell. The market responds to what you tell it you will buy.

    Gamers are like abused spouses who keep going back.

  3. Right, I didn’t want to get into the quality angle because it’s a can of worms the size of a Dalek. Because what is a Bad Game(tm)? An unsatisfying one? A bland, derivative clone? A game that steals your stuff while you sleep? A game you don’t ‘like’?

    It’s much easier to approach the problem from the intrinsic quality of the product itself. Much more visible. A game that messes up your hard drive if you don’t install it properly is a Bad Game(tm) (and there’s been a few of those). A game that crashes, constantly and repeatedly at the same spot for 50% of the players no matter the platform is a Bad Game(tm)(and there’s been many of those.

    Like I said, it’s a bad comparison, but no one is taking film makers to court because they release boring or poorly filmed movies. However, should they release movies that cut abruptly half way, or have the sound messed up in half the theaters would get recalled, if distributed at all in the first place.

    So, why is it that film studios, for example, do seem to have this much stronger sense of not wanting to release crap when they know it’s crap, but game makers (including publishers, of course), seemingly don’t? I still maintain it’s because they can. The AAA ‘failures’ of the past were not ‘failures’ at all, in their eyes. They might have sold below expectations in many cases, but there hasn’t been any spectacular, catastrophic failures the whole world would talk about.

    They are different markets, with different expectations of course, but if Peter Jackson had released ‘Return of the King’, final, done and stamped and it was all filmed with a handycam and all scenes out of order, and it you could see the mikes and the lights, and the actors were on screen reading from the scripts they’re holding, yeah. That’s a failure. It would have been justly panned and laughed at, and I’m sure no other film maker after would release a movie like that again. They would take the time to do it properly.

    Yet, ever since it was possible for game makers to release a game unfinished, or not as good as it realistically could have been, just because they could patch later, they have done so. Because we are not following the example of the guys that take their time no matter what and release proper products. We’re following the example of the first one that released a crappy one just because he could patch it later.

    We’re going to the movies to watch flicks that in many cases have the ending missing, they stop halfway for no reason or have the picture all blurry. And we know it. We read film magazines and they’re telling us right there. But we still go. We still pay tickets, hoping that it will be alright in our theater, that it’s just some particular theaters’ fault, but ours will play it fine.

    The industry has no incentive to correct itself if its customers are idiots that say they want it corrected, but still keep paying for bad stuff.

  4. The thing is, when I was a kid I don’t remember bugs interfering and stopping me from playing. Of course those were all console games on cartridges, and smaller and simpler, but they weren’t full of bugs when released.

    Nowadays, even if it’s not an MMO, even if it’s on a console, there might be bugs. (For instance Thief 3 was the buggiest game I’ve ever played on the XBox.)

    Has anyone else noticed that trend? It seems rather odd. I wonder if it applies to software in general and games are just following everyone else’s trend? Did Wordperfect get released with tons of bugs? or Maybe I was too young and didn’t use applications fully enough. Is it because the internet has trained companies to do this, thinking everything can be fixed later? Maybe I’m imagining it all.

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