Massive Delays

Gamers love when Blizzard says that a game will be “released when it’s ready” because they believe it indicates the final product will be of high quality. However, we don’t really react well to news of a delay, do we? When Bioware announced that Star Wars – The Old Republic was being pushed back an extra year into 2011, the community on their forums went into a nerd-rage.

It started with an EA executive talking about the company’s reduced expectations for profits in 2010. Reduced expectations could be due to anything, but he also mentioned that they were now planning to launch a major MMO in spring of 2011. Considering the fact that EA has only one MMO announced, people assumed it was TOR, and they were right.

Bioware and Star Wars fans had good reasons to think the game was coming out soon. Bioware reps stated at E3 2009 that they hoped not to be present at E3 2010. Several books, including a novel that takes place in TOR’s time said to be releasing “around the same time as the release of The Old Republic”, were slated for spring of 2010. The hype-machine for Bioware was in full-force for the last few months. The beta sign-ups were announced. At one point, over a dozen separate articles on the Sith Inquisitor and Consular classes were released in the same week after Bioware flew reviewers and previewers out to Skywalker Ranch to play their game. Some of the exclusive interviews with Bioware ended with words like, “Look out for TOR in 2010!” The news of a 2011 release came as a shock.

How can you keep a community excited about a game that they won’t actually get to play for a year-and-a-half? How many of the half-dozen TOR podcasts will still be doing shows about a game they haven’t played in 2011? How many pre-launch guilds are now disintegrating because of the wait until launch?

The fanboi and fangrrl were not meant to live on hype alone. Being hyped is something we endure because it can enhance the flavor of our game once we get to feast on it. But you can’t stay hyped forever. For some people, the hype limit is less than a month. For other people, the hype-limit is less than six months. Very few people can stay hyped into an MMO for years prior to it’s launch.

I want to play TOR when it’s ready, but I also want to play it right now.

If anything was launched before it was ready, it was the hype-machine for TOR.

17 thoughts on “Massive Delays

  1. Stabs

    It appears they’ve just noticed that WoW has an expansion due out somewhere in the middle of 2010 and just remembered that EA Mythic didn’t do too well last time it launched a MMO against a WoW expansion.

    So well done Bioware Mythic for averting the mistake the last game made but no cookie because you too until now to notice.

  2. Arkenor

    I can wait.

    An MMO that isn’t released massively too soon (see STO) will be a novel thing. It might even teach other developers a lesson in how to do things right, IF it succeeds.

    Some folks will squawk for a while about the delay, but in the end the wait just makes the anticipation that much greater.

  3. Scott

    On the other hand people (read: fanboys and girls) who create guilds, podcasts, etc. that far in advance are just asking for trouble. I mean, other than the occasional newsbyte that *everyone* gets, what is there possibly to be talking about? Creating a guild a year before launch? Insanity, especially in our current “tourist” environment.

  4. Scott

    WoW’s expansion has nothing to do with their delay. The reason that MMO’s like Mythics did poorly near a WoW expansion launch is because the Mythic MMO was release too early, not polished, and the gameplay was simply bad and fractured.

    A good MMO would have no problem launching at any time of the year. This market is waiting for that GOOD MMO to come out. Star Trek Online isn’t it, so we’re yet waiting for TOR to come now.

    If they really need over a year to polish it, then I’m damn glad they’re taking it as I want another polished MMO to meet those standards so we can enjoy it for another 5+ years. Not see a poorly produced MMO title that dies a slow death and bleeds investors money.

    1. Stabs

      Is it really so inconceivable that in an industry where almost all of the managerial staff either are or were hardcore gamers that there might be so competitive strategising regarding releases?

  5. NBarnes

    If you release too soon, everybody tears you apart for releasing an ‘unfinished’ product. Push your release date back, people tear you apart for making them wait. You can’t win; just do what you think is best.

    1. Sok

      I think the point is “don’t give a date unless you’re certain of it; that way you will neither be too early nor too late.”

      I’m in full agreement with the people who say that it’s better to delay rather than release a shoddy product, but it might be better still to not build up expectations you can’t meet. Hard to say how many people you’ve lost, giving up on waiting and moving along to something more immediate.

  6. Brian Inman

    I see a bunch of SWTOR niche blogs dying. I think I have to agree with you that it will be too hard for them to keep up the hype for another year.

    I am just glad I decided to turn my blog into a general gaming a few months ago. I was pretty close to jumping on the bandwagon, and making a SWTOR blog. Now I can sit back, and relax while writing about other MMORPG’s while SWTOR gets polished for another year.

  7. Aaron

    Thing is, a month after it’s released, no one will remember all this hullabaloo, and no one will care. Most importantly Bioware’s accountants, who are no doubt fully aware that, within reason*, delaying a game never made all the people who wanted to play it stop wanting to play it.

    *The reasonable part meaning it can’t fall massively out of date technically speaking, take another 5 years, or have direct, heavy competition. I know there’s a million MMOs coming out, but how many include the words ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Bioware’?

  8. Randomessa

    I’m quite torn on this; on the one hand I would of course prefer a company to release a game “when it’s ready” and no sooner (ref. Guild Wars 2). On the other, short-term pleasure hand, I want to play something NOW, and I guess that makes me an accessory to those companies who release their games without a few more months that could be spent percolating in beta (STO).

    I also believe in the theory that the ability to postpone a game’s release is a luxury afforded only to the biggest and most wealthy companies with years of established cred such as Bioware and Blizzard (touching again on my not wanting to wait), and if things were otherwise I would either have a smaller selection of games to play, or more less-polished indie releases which might not be to my tastes as they tend to go after niches I don’t belong to (EVE, Fallen Earth, Darkfall).

    In short, the elitist in me says this is a terrible state of affairs, but the gamer in me who just wants to have fun tonight says, “carry on.”

  9. We Fly Spitfires

    I have no idea why people got upset when TOR was announced for 2011. I mean, I always assumed it would be 2011 and Bioware never said anything to indicate otherwise.

    “I want to play TOR when it’s ready, but I also want to play it right now.”

    Yup hehe I know the feeling! We want our cake and we want to eat it right NOW! :)

  10. Rodalpho

    Maybe they intend to invest in a very long WoW-style closed beta period? With a 9 month beta, that would work out nicely– and the NDA-free closed beta certainly helped pump up enthusiasm for that game.

  11. Bhagpuss

    It can come out in 2111 for all the interest I have in it.

    I just re-upped my Station Access account and after a 6 month break I realise that I probably don’t need any new MMOs after all. Its my characters that matter, not the games they are in.

  12. Tamat

    This doesn’t surprise me; actually, this rather exciting! During an interview with Jake Neri at E3 last year (http://www.zam.com/story.html?story=19039), he measured the amount of dialogue in SW:TOR by saying that it was enough for 23 Empire Strikes Back. That’s a lot of VO! After hearing that, it was hard to accept that the game would be ready and polished for a retail launch in 2010.

    They certainly have challenges ahead of them. Some of the promises that have been made could very well set the bar for future MMOs. It will be interesting if they fully adapt and embrace the “It will ship when it’s ready” approach to game making.

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