I remember a time when a triple-A game or first-party publisher title has all you need inside the floppy disk/CD/digital download. The Witcher 3? Complete experience. The first Mass Effect? Ditto. The two Baldur’s Gate games on PC? The complete package.
Fast forward to this generation: Destiny isn’t a finished game. Fallout 76 is a broken mess of a title with a huge roadmap. The latest EA loot-and-shoot online title, Anthem, is a pretty -if-dull shooter experience with , you guessed it, a roadmap for its future content and DLC plans.
Every major publisher title is turning into an online MMO-esque loot-driven real-time action game and instances, and each one of them will have a plan to keep its life cycle going. To which I ask….
Why the hell are triple-A publishers shipping online games that are half-completed?
Why send out copies of a game that is half-done and risk getting bad press and negative reception with the calm and collected logic that it can all be fixed in due time? Because we were conditioned to do so. Yep, since the introduction of DLC in games (thanks Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Bethesda), publishers took it a step further and figured “why not take out parts of our game and sell them off?”, followed by “why not push out a competent half-full experience and then fix the rest of it while our customers bicker over who gets to be the apologist when it’s finished?”
We placed our pre-order money for these games that are half-baked, and we continue supporting them. Stuff like this wouldn’t fly outside of pre-order and gaming culture: chefs do not send out half-cooked burgers and expect customers to take their time with it while you get the next patty right.
The messed-up part is that the same publishers are coincidingly releasing games that are finished from the get-go but have room to expand. I’m referring to EA’s other major release Apex Legends.
How To Deal
How should companies and developers go about this and not get caught with their pants down? Simple: do what Ubisoft is trying to do with The Division 2; make enough content to appease to gamers until they get tired of it before your next major update and expansion. That’s what the first Destiny tried with The Taken King and Rise of Iron; could have been in the actual game but better late than never.
I may not be a fan of military shooters, but at least they’re doing something right by making the endgame as packed as possible. And also making the game seamless to load, the guns seem different even when you’re around level 10 or so, and throw in a host of enemies apart from human soldiers.
Here’s a list of what The Division 2 will be offering post-game:
- The Black Tusk faction in Invaded Missions
- The “Operation Dark Hours” 8-man Raid
- Character Specializations
- Occupied Dark Zones
- Replayable Main and Side Missions
- Conflict PvP Modes
That last one is pretty important. Even if it’ll be unbalanced from the get-go, at least there’s some replayability aspect for players to get back into over and over. For comparison, all I’m doing in Anthem is doing Hard/Grandmaster challenges for the same few Strongholds I have access to. Ubisoft may s*** the bed with The Division 2, but at least it’s learning from its past mistake of delivering a not-yet-ready online gaming experience.
Another simple solution: finish the product. Take your time with it. If you need to delay it and risk having to anger your shareholders but would rather come out on top and get a good name for yourselves in the public eye, well then maybe getting the trust from your fanbase is worth more than fast money. Games are products, but public perception is still worth more than all the dozen franchises you own.
EA stood for creativity and gamechangers at one point, at least in the late 80s/early 90s. It now festers as a company living off its legacy, selling games and catering to fads and shareholder appeasement. That’s all fair; it’s still a business. But the heart of business is still making customers happy and remembering your name until kingdom come. That always takes centrestage.
Selling incomplete games shouldn’t be the norm. At the risk of beating a dead horse of a quote, vote with your wallet. That’s the only language these people understand.