Gaming is arguably the only industry on earth in which companies can get away with pushing a broken or unfinished product to launch. The expectation and pressure of the day one launch means that developers often ship an unfinished game to a publisher and update it on launch day. But, it doesn’t always go to plan.
Gamers have plenty of options for play in 2016, so it’s hard to see how launching a broken product does anything but harm sales. The growth of the mobile and iGaming sectors, in particular, means that players have immediate access to indie delights like Monument Valley and Limbo, as well as a range of casino, lottery, and new instant win games to make the commute a little shorter.
Here are just three of the worst offenders of generation ‘fix it later’:
Batman: Arkham Knight
Rocksteady’s Arkham series is arguably one of the most important franchises of the past decade. It combines an intuitive combat system with the ability to soar through Gotham’s eternal night as the Caped Crusader. The first two titles – Arkham Asylum and Arkham City – were praised at launch. The third title, Arkham Knight? Not so much.
The PC version of Arkham Knight had problems running over 30 frames per second (fps) and so it was shipped locked to 30fps. It had few options for visual quality at high resolutions and entering the Batmobile caused the frame rate to dive. Arkham Knight was playable – it just wasn’t a very smooth ride. The game was eventually pulled from sale for repairs.
The War Z
The original launch of War Z (before it was rebranded Infestation: Survivor Stories) was a strange mix of comedy and tragedy. However, there was no ambivalence among the players who bought it. They were blamed by the developer, Hammerpoint, for ‘misreading’ information about the title on distribution platform, Steam.
The 2012 release of the game was criticised for overpromising, under-producing and for having no mention of the fact that it was still under development. The War Z is the continuation of a theme as far as the producer, Sergey Titov, is concerned. One of his previous efforts, Big Rigs, is an infamous example of development gone wrong. There was no collision detection, non-existent opponent AI, and the ability to reverse at speeds several times the speed of light – or 12.3 undecillion mph – inadvertently.
It’d be easy to lump several other games in this section – Final Fantasy XIV, Diablo 3, World of Warcraft, and virtually anything with a permanent online connection as a prerequisite. SimCity gets a special mention, though. It was a classic, offline, single player experience that EA decided would work much better as a game in the mould of its polar opposite.
Only, it didn’t work at all. The new multiplayer, always-online SimCity suffered from connectivity issues and overcrowded servers, owing to features it didn’t need in the first place. SimCity sold well, a testament to the popularity of Maxis’ long-lived title rather than the game’s new direction. But it took a new offline mode and EA’s admission that it was wrong – or “dumb” – to change the game before players stopped fussing. In more recent developments, Watch Dogs 2 came out this month, and it’s multiplayer doesn’t work. It can be difficult to understand the thought processes of video game developers sometimes.