Video Game Delays: The Good, The Bad and The Unjustified

The most disappointing thing for a gamer – apart from a game being canceled – is his favorite game being delayed. Delays were always a part of our industry and there have been some painful experiences. Who can forget what happened with The Last Guardian.

There isn’t much we can do about delays besides being vocal on social media, putting a bit of pressure on developers to push it. But as disappointing as such events may be, are delays really that bad? The short answer is no, a videogame delay is never a bad thing.

By delaying a video game, developers gain more time to offer us a product that’s worth our money. Rushing on the other hand is the worst thing a developer or publisher can do to a game, and we have seen many games ruined by this practice. So yes, a delay isn’t a bad thing.

However, I noticed something pretty weird about delays lately.

Here’s an example, Ubisoft announced The Division and went public with a 2014 release window. Fans went crazy, they loved the idea and the concept of the game, but at the time anyone who expected the game to release in 2014, need to get his head checked.

We have been in this industry long enough to understand how game releases work. Development of a project takes years but publishers like to go public with game as soon as they can. This gives them time to gather substantial attention, create hype and keep people hooked for more information.

Same was the case with The Division, Ubisoft went public with a release window but an internal source at the time said that The Division’s 2014 release window is “laughable.”

The game engine works well, it’s not done but works well. The actual game development has barely started, however.

The fact that Ubisoft has gone public with a 2014 release date feels laughable to be perfectly honest, we will never be able to release The Division this year. It’s a large project, and we have very far to go.

The source turned out to be true and we still don’t have a solid release date for The Division. I refuse to believe that Ubisoft was actually planning to release the game in 2014, they never did.

So why announce a release date/window if you know there’s no chance it will make it? The answer is simple, they wanted to create a quick buzz and get people interested in the project and then delay it in the name of “quality,” when people are drooling over it.

Now, they can keep feeding us tidbits throughout its development cycle and keep the hype train moving and picking up as many passengers as possible along the way.

We know The Division is out there, we know it’s coming and we are even more excited to pick it up, aren’t we?

Ubisoft isn’t the only one and it certainly won’t be the last to use such tactics. Back in 2014, Batman Arkham Knight was announced along with a release date that was just a few months away, seriously? At the time, I heard plenty of rumors about its eventual delay and even people here at the office were betting on it.

I think a developer should never commit to a release date until the game is in Alpha. However, we have seen examples where release dates were announced while the game was still early in development. This forces developers to meet the date and ignore plenty of bugs and issues, which they later fix with patches/updates.

That is one of the reasons why we are seeing so many botched releases these days.

Some may argue that delays mean they will have to spend more money on marketing, and keep spending until the game comes out. I don’t think that’s the case, whenever a new game is announced a certain amount of marketing budget is kept in mind or is allocated.

Serious marketing campaigns run for a few months and then the game is delayed, things go dark, then another marketing boost is provided to the title close to release.

In the period between the delay and actual release, publishers aren’t spending millions on marketing. They just release a few teasers, some new details and publications provide all the hype.

As a community of millions, we can raise our voice to make a change and force publishers/developers to not commit to a release date until the game is in Alpha, and until developers aren’t sure that they can ship their product on a certain date.