‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse… but the broadband is making up for the lack of movement anywhere else. Or it is if you’re organised and getting consoles updated before the lucky recipients awaken to the joy of a new gaming system. This probably isn’t the case for most, and anything game box shaped wrapped under the tree isn’t getting any love until they’re opened. Gone are the days of getting your most wanted game from Santa/friends/family and booting it up so you can play on Christmas morn, now there’s a significant wait for updates to download then install before you can enjoy anything in its full glory – and in most cases multiplayer is the stuff of dreams and wishes until you’ve got the latest version.
This year things are tougher with the assumption that most of the titles bought and given as presents are the bigger releases from the last couple of months. Assassin’s Creed Unity, Far Cry 4, Halo Masterchief Collection, DriveClub, GTA V, Destiny, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Alien Isolation – we can keep listing, but all these have one thing in common. Big patches to fix major issues. I lamented the rise of the day one patch last year, and was hoping that we’d see a decline. Looks like that’s a pipe dream as games are just not being released finished. I’ve got no issue at all with additions and fixes being made to games through their lifespan as problems come up, but we’re in a ridiculous situation where the state of the games are making us lose faith in developers and publishers.
Ubisoft has risen to prominence over the last few years as an innovative developer/publisher that can deliver us some of the best gaming experiences out there, but their performance this year is pretty shocking. EA, traditionally the studio we love to hate, is appearing angelic next to Ubi’s efforts. Their last few games were either broken at launch, or worse, still have elements that don’t work for everyone. Andy and I have tried for 4 weeks to have a co-op game of Far Cry 4, no luck, and no admission from Ubisoft of the number of complaints appearing on the forums. So disappointing is this that I know I’ve lost enthusiasm to actually go and play anymore after finishing the campaign, and this it giving me a real problem.
Bad reviews of games aren’t something I usually let influence me because that’s just opinion. Bad reports of functionality problems and recent experiences are having a serious impact in what I choose to buy now. It’s not only specific games, the feeling of shoddy work expands to encompass the organisations themselves and is one of the reasons I’ve gone nowhere near The Crew. It was the same with DriveClub, and only a cheap online deal less than 2 months after release has persuaded me to give it a go. I’ll be putting up a review in the next few days, but man did I nearly miss out! The game is good, though I just don’t think it’ll ever recover from the launch woes and PS+ fiasco.
What can we actually do about this though? Telling the devs doesn’t seem to have any affect on the biggest releases, and mass feedback isn’t practical or effective because the message doesn’t get out there to everyone. The big game websites don’t always mention major issues, and smaller sites (us included) don’t necessarily get pre-release copies so we find the same problems as everyone else at the same time – tough to warn people at that stage. Can we return the games or get refunds? Yes, this should be possible in most countries though is likely to get the same response as every class action lawsuit we hear about (disdain), and if successful could just result in putting studios out of business ending up being counter-productive. The same goes for avoiding buying the games, we’ll just get innovation stripped out of new titles and things becoming “safe bets”.
Maybe the only option is for the mainstream media to pick up and start sharing the news with non-gamers. Bad publicity caused Ubisoft’s u-turn on AC Unity and the increased amount of communication they’re giving about the fixes happening (and are still not complete). Will this work with everything though? Doubtful because it’ll only be the extreme or controversial that make it to the news. What about change from within the industry? Again, it’ll be hit and miss depending on who needs to turn the profit and who cares about the quality they’re outputting. However, there’s one hope – the console manufacturers. They can start putting the pressure back, they can refuse to allow the large updates. Think back two generations where everything had to be right because the consoles weren’t online, and whilst PC’s were connected updates were expansions rather than fixes. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo need to take some action and force improvements for the people that are buying into their products. I am though really at a loss for what we as the gaming supporters and enthusiasts can do that will significantly change the current state of affairs because nothing has turned a result so far, and we’re in a worse situation than we were 12 months ago.