Remember release dates?
Those firm, concrete dates when a game would come out and be judged as a finished product?
Those days we would all look forward to with excitement as they drew ever-closer so that we could finally begin our adventure in a brand new and exciting world just begging to be explored?
Purely digital games have unquestionably altered the landscape of what it means to “ship” a product. In the days of yesteryear – or in the realm of physical product deliver still today – a product should only be shipped to consumers when it is finished and ready to be used to its utmost capabilities. Well, that’s the dream anyway.
We now find ourselves in a very strange place where games hit our digital stores in incredibly varied states of polish.
While this phenomenon used to be confined to indies who lacked the funds or technical acuity to present a product that was finished to the public, more and more do we see unfished games delivered to the hands of consumers from massive AAA studios. *cough* EA *cough*.
If we’re going to make the best out of a dour situation, well have to load up our imaginary Glocks with enough ammunition to kill an old idea dead – because that’s exactly what we’re going to need to do folks.
As the old saying goes: “the only way out is through”. And in this case, we’re going to need to go through a lot.
Changing an idea is one thing – changing an entrenched idea is another thing entirely. The concept or release dates is so fundamental to the way that the current market is structured that it’s night impossible to try to envision a world without them.
While there are bad agents who tend to manipulate the nature of digital products to suit their own ends, there is potential for games to fundamentally change the nature of release dates.
The mere fact that content updates can be pushed directly to a player’s device is reason enough for both players and developers to embrace the fact that there truly is no such thing as a firm release date anymore.
If anything, the product that should be delivered to the player on Day One is one that is as polished as can be, with a fundamentally solid system design that can be extrapolated upon in the future.
Regardless of how proud a dev can be, there is absolutely no arguing against the fact that there is often no better voice to listen to for feedback other than the people who will be spending countless hours playing it?
some players will be an unreliable source of feedback, but the vast majority will offer constructive criticism toward what augmentations they’d like to see their favourite games receive.
After all, game design is all about achieving a harmonious balance – and veteran players are often excellent detectors at picking up when things are off.
The unfortunate side-effect of this is, as we touched upon above, a system that gets rarely utilized, and as such breeds an unhealthy “us vs. them” mentality.
While we’d love to see developers co-develop games incrementally with their fanbase, it seems that the balance is something that is still in the far-flung reaches of the future.