Why is game development like Northern trains? They’re always delayed!
*waits for laughter to subside*
An interesting trend has been emerging. Most major anticipated titles for 2020 have announced some sort of delay to their scheduled release date. To the point that fans have dreaded any tweet or blog post that begins with the words “Announcement regarding game xx”. Those ominous words have already been linked to delays of Doom: Eternal, Cyberpunk 2077, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Last of Us Part 2 (to name a few). Why are we seeing this unprecedented wave of delays?
There’s probably a few reasons, but largely you can probably attribute it to some of the more high profile ‘failures’ of recent launches. Look at Anthem, No Man’s Sky and Fallout 76. Three games clearly unfinished at launch, and on the receiving end of the merciless wrath from the gaming community. You can see from those examples why studios, with titles that already have anticipation building, to be nervous at the thought of launching an unfinished product. We have seen it time again how unforgiving reviewers, fans and communities can be to botched launches. So why risk that type of backlash when conversely communities are receptive to open communication about the status of a games development. But for the studios themselves, is delaying a launch detrimental in other ways?
Studios tied to larger publishers often find themselves pressured to launch games on time to satisfy shareholders rather than fans. But which is more beneficial to share price, delaying, or launching a game prematurely:
Here’s CD Projekt Red's stock price, highlighted is the date they announced the delay. A slight decrease, but easily recovered.
Here’s EA’s stock price, highlighted is the Anthem release date, again as slight decrease but it was easily recovered.
What can we take away from this? Delaying a game has a negligible impact on share price. Important to note that EA’s stock price is a reflection of all its properties and titles, whereas CD Projekt Red is solely a reflection of its current titles. Okay so share price isn’t impacted (much), what else is?
A potential downside of delaying a game is the scary C word (not that one). Crunch. Delaying a game is a clear sign that development needs more time, and let’s face it, the devs will never have enough time to completely polish a game in this competitive gaming environment. Which means sadly, a delayed game will likely mean months more crunch time for developers. I think it’s naive to have the opinion that delaying will alleviate crunch, because sadly that is the nature of modern game development.
In conclusion, I welcome more honest communication from studios, and a desire to turn out complete finished articles. But whilst this is good for us gaming fans, consider the human impact of devs working overtime to meet these lofty goals. Finding a balance between realistic release dates, and satisfying the gaming communities is something studios will continue to juggle for some time.
Thoughts and comments (or grammatical errors)? Leave them below.