The game industry is leaving their fans wanting time and again when it comes to day-one game quality and experiences. I’ve now been burned so many times that I’m just never going to pre-order any games again.
“Ahhh! Wolves!!” runs through my mind as I encounter a pack of wild animals in Rise of the Tomb Raider. It’s a brand new game and I’ve gotten to play it for a few hours since release. I’m not distressed by the pack as an enemy type in the game but on all previous encounters with wolves, I’ve fallen through the ground and have had a hard time getting back into the game. I’ve also been regularly projectiled straight up in the air and fallen to my death when climbing ladders and encountered non-existing enemies preventing me from progressing in the game.
Three weeks later I’m spending tens of minutes waiting on a loading screen waiting to login to Just Cause 3 — a game without an online multiplayer component. The troublesome and slow online login is a digital rights management scheme and not actually enhancing the game in any way. The crazy destruction playground has just been released and every night of the launch week will be spent waiting for excruciatingly slow loading performance every time there is a cut scene (there are many) or I die in the game (happens frequently). I’m still only a few percentage into the game and on the first few missions but I’ve still had to restart the game quite a few times as missions just stop progressing or the game crashed while I was playing. Like in the world of Tomb Raider, I also keep falling through the floor and stumbling into the oblivion that lies beneath solid ground in the game’s universe. Just Cause 2 was the reason I bought an Xbox but it’s sequel was way more frustrating to play so far than it has been fun.
The Halo franchise have been one the most loved game series for consoles. The release of Halo: The Master Chief Collection last winter may start to change that perception. Hours after the release of Halo 5, I got repeatedly got stuck on the environment and had to restart the game to get loose. Enemies would stand perfectly still allowing me to kill them all at my leisure, the audio kept dropping out during some of the more action-filled sequences, and towards the end of the campaign the game crashed twice — forcing me to replay the last missions. The Master Chief collection fared a little better last winter, except severe issues with online matchmaking. Six months after the release, the official tournament was canceled because of then still unresolved matchmaking problems. For a game with such a massive budget and which is considered to have defined the whole modern multiplayer shooter genre, that simply isn’t good enough.
Unfortunately, experiences like these are now the norm rather than the exception. Each game seem to require at least a dozen gigabytes with updates on day-one and the another dozen the week after release. The games are clearly not finished and the game publishers seem to be fully aware of it when they box the software and sell it. The pressure to release before the winter holidays must be enormous for the gaming studios. Delaying the release to after the holidays can make or break a game’s success. However, sacrificing quality and gamer experience to meet an over-optimistic self-imposed deadline is clearly the wrong choice for an entertainment product.
I’ve wanted to write this article for two years but have always put it aside and found excuses on behalf of the publishers. The problems are usually fixed in due time, but it still leaves the early gamer feeling cheated. Games are quite expensive and you expect that they will work immediately when you start them up. There is no labeling on the packaging warning you that it may take a week or two after you purchase it before it starts working properly.
By now, it’s clear that the industry can’t be trusted to deliver a good gaming experience out-of-the-box for new games. I believe it’s high time to stop pre-ordering any new game and rather wait for the games to come on sale a few months after release. Not only will waiting deliver more entertainment at a lower cost – but as a player you’ll have to deal with fewer glitches and far less frustration.
December 2016 update: So I only pre-ordered one game in 2016. I still bought new games on day one and was disappointed with at least two titles. I guess I’ll have to aim to not buy games until they’ve tried and tested in 2017.