I struggle to remember the last game I bought on release day that didn’t have a day one patch, Killzone: Mercenary, Beyond: Two Souls and Batman: Arkham Origins have all had patches that prompted for download before I could even get to the install sections. This isn’t a new occurrence, we’ve been experiencing this for a couple of years over numerous titles, and now we’re about to embark on the next generation of gaming and the consoles themselves have day one patches. But why do we see this?
The much reported Xbox One patch is mandatory and will reverse the decision to make the machine only work if connected to the internet at least once every 24 hours, remove the DRM that stopped lending and second hand game sales, and makes the machine and games region free. Why it has to be patched when it’s been 5 months since they confirmed the changes is anyone’s guess, and the fact that you still have to connect to the internet to deactivate the online validation process is a bit bizarre. Isn’t this going to cause a few people issues when they try to use their machines for more than a day if they don’t have an internet connection? And will the packaging and/or sales staff advise purchasers that they need to do this to make the console work? A scan of a few popular online shopping sites doesn’t come up with anything that advises consumers. When the policy decisions were announced, and then changed, we didn’t know the release date so Microsoft were not committed to anything other than their internal timelines, and there should have been enough time to update the pre-installed system software even if there was an added cost.
On the Sony side, the PS4 patch is optional but adds more functionality to the console, and the details have been made available this week on the official PlayStation blog, though this is slightly confusing because we’ve been told all along that these features are the basics of the system, so the patch must be to enhance some of them (and if you read the blog post check out the paragraph on the BD/DVD use, we have to authenticate online before use? I am reading that right?). At least I’m hoping it’s for enhancement otherwise most of the things you were looking forward to the PS4 will not be there until you hook it up to the internet. Your console will still work if you don’t have an internet connection. Also, and this I’ve only just seen with the patch notes, the suspend/resume feature is not going to be present from launch. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, we’ve all lived with it for decades of gaming, but it’s a widely touted feature and we’re now being told several weeks before release that it won’t be there. And I’ve got the same question for the PS4 packaging as with the Xbox, will it state clearly that you need to be online to get access to every feature they’ve been talking about for the last 6 months?
I’ve always had an issue with day one patching on games when we know developers are able to release finished products, and I find no reason why a singleplayer game should be patched before people have even got to the menu screen (Beyond: Two Souls is guilty of this). In most cases multiplayer games should also not need patching unless they’re adding new features or content, and Rockstar are the biggest example of this recently with the significant problems they’ve had with GTA Online. It concerns me that it’s become the norm and that there’s no clear indication in most cases on why the patches are there and if we’re being shipped unfinished games, and that this is spreading to hardware as well. The ridiculous update needed for the Wii U on launch is a massive mistake on Nintendo’s part, and what should have been a genuinely exciting experience turned into hours of boredom waiting for servers to connect and bring the firmware up to date.
The PS3 and Xbox 360 are very different machines now to what they were at launch, but the thing they did have in common was that you could take it out of the box, plug it in, hook up to your TV and then play a game. An equally alarming thing is that it’s the big AAA games that seem to be the most affected. Is this due to wide reaching QC problems, publisher deadlines, or just because production is getting very complex? I don’t know, but I’d gladly put money on us seeing patches on release for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Battlefield 4 and Call Of Duty: Ghosts. We might be able to live with it, as long as it’s not like the woeful experience of GRID 2 where the launch issues have never been fixed.