Long cycles of development and announcing games years before they come out is a norm for the gaming industry. However, this is changing and cycles are shrinking. A number of developers are now revealing their games months before they actually come out.
One of the major publishers to do this was Bethesda.
It announced Fallout 4 at E3 2015 and released it in Fall 2015. Bethesda’s move and its success encouraged other developers to try the same approach. Of course, something that worked for one game may not work for the other.
But announcing games years ahead of release to accommodate an extensive marketing period needs to stop. Long cycles don’t excite but rather agitate fans of the project.
On top of that, preparing for E3 year after year is something that is not part of the development process and takes up a lot of the development team’s time.
According to Pete Hines from Bethesda:
It is absolutely a… getting ready for E3 is not part of any developer’s natural development process. Anytime they’re doing something that’s not finishing the game and so forth is going to be a distraction, is going to be an additional burden, for sure.
He further said:
It’s more about getting the amount of time between you know something actually exists and you can play it, and compressing that down as much as possible so that you’re not dealing with these drops of, ‘Okay, well you’ve announced it, but now there’s this long period of time, of weeks or months, where you don’t have anything new to tell me’. And then there’s another beat some months later, and so you get this up and down in terms of excitement and conversation.
And trying to smooth that out, trying to reduce the amount of tasks and the number of times you’re going back to a developer and saying, ‘Oh, we need some new screenshots or we need some new footage, or we need to put down another trailer’. If you go back five years to Skyrim, we announced that game existed exactly a year before it came out. And then the next month we showed the first details on it, but then we didn’t really do much of anything until E3. So in a lot of ways it looked a lot like the Fallout campaign, except that we had to do both the very first look and then do it again at E3. And so it was like, ‘Well, let’s shorten that’.
Do you think developers should shrink their cycles and announce games only 5-6 months ahead of release?