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Delays Hurt Video Game Business 352

Posted by michael
from the whooshing-noise-as-deadlines-fly-by dept.
George Bailey writes "Wired.com has an article (No Room for Slacking in Game Biz) dicussing the damage game developers cause themselves via delays in releasing games to market. To quote from the article: 'As the games become more complex and sophisticated, less of them seem to meet release dates that companies initially tout. A few years ago, the fallout was usually just disappointment among fans. But as the video-game industry matures and surpasses Hollywood in size, more is at stake -- like marketing campaigns delayed and intricate positioning against competitors disrupted. What's more, missing a promised release date can bleed buzz, precious in an industry where many young buyers have to take the time to squirrel away $50 for a typical purchase.'"
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Delays Hurt Video Game Business

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  • hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fjordboy (169716) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:34PM (#8275415) Homepage
    I take it a step further - ignore the game release dates altogether and buy them after they've been out for a month - the previously priced 50$ video game is now $10.
    • Re:hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:55PM (#8275601)
      Exactly. This is such a 'woe is me' article. Damn companies are now begging. Sickening. Fucking marketing people are out of control.

      Message to marketroids: Complex software takes time. It's fucking ready when it's fucking ready - deal with it.

      • Re:hmm... (Score:5, Funny)

        by wideBlueSkies (618979) on Friday February 13, 2004 @07:20PM (#8275800) Journal
        >>It's fucking ready when it's fucking ready - deal with it.

        Which is what the guys from 3D Realms keep saying.

        wbs.
      • Re:hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by deacon (40533) on Friday February 13, 2004 @08:19PM (#8276229) Journal
        Hey, have you ever shipped a product?

        There is an old cliche, "It is time to shoot the engineers and move into production:

        And yes, I AM AN Engineer, and like all engineers, I have the same tendency:---->

        Fact of life: Many engineers, given the chance, will keep polishing the helmet because there is another speck of dust on it.

        Real world fact: No product is ever perfect to every customer, and there comes a time when you have to stop farking around, finish up, and ship the product!

        The alternative is to bankrupt the company, throw everyone out one the street, screw the shareholders and people who have given you credit to buy all your equipment, and start over!

        And while we are at it, let us look at this timeline:

        1400s: Astromony is too hard and takes time, plus the earth is the center of the universe.

        1800s: The sun is the center of our solar system. Germs are a figment of your imagination, plus medicine is so hard.

        2000s: Of course germs exsist, and with the proper percautions and drugs, are not a problem. Software is so hard. It will be done when it's ready.

        2300s: We have the methodology to write bug free software on time and under budget. But those matter-antimatter transporters are so hard...

        • Re:hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Photon Ghoul (14932) on Friday February 13, 2004 @10:04PM (#8276860)
          You don't play games do you? The real world fact is that I'm tired of shelling out $50 for an unreturnable product that isn't finished. Yes, some bugs are to be expected but have you ever played a $50 game that is completely broken? The game industry has a lot of problems and unrealistic release dates from publishers is one of the worst.
          • Around sometime last year, I downloaded a copy of The Thing soon after it came out (I try before I buy) so anyhow- I play through the game, get to the end, kill the end boss monster thing of DOOM, and right as it dies.....*POW* the game crashes. I'm glad that I can download games and try them before paying, if I had paid $50 for The Thing, and it had crashed on me just as I was beating the game, I would have been VERY upset. (Note that this was a very common bug that was soon patched.)
            Patch or no, failing t
            • Re:The Thing (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Dylan2000 (592069) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @05:20AM (#8278628) Homepage
              You try before you buy but you had already played right through to the end and still hadn't decided whether you were ready to pay for it or not?

              Maybe I'm dumb but what on earth would have motivated you to go to the store and buy the game after you'd already completed it?

              I've heard this argument again and again that 'if it's really good I'll buy a copy just to put on the shelf to reward the developers.'. It's bullshit. Once in a blue moon I believe you might do that for a very special game but the prospect of paying $50 for something which you won't use makes a game's chances of getting onto that shelf, well... let's just say slim. The fact that you played the game through to the end, then found a bug and said

              Patch or no, failing to catch bugs like that is simply unacceptable. I pay for games that are worth my money.

              suggests to me that you were never serious about buying it. Even though you extracted its full purchase value from it. That's not try before buy that's just getting the game for free. I'm not judging you for that - I couldn't give a crap - but don't lie to yourself and especially don't lie to me.
              • Maybe I'm dumb but what on earth would have motivated you to go to the store and buy the game after you'd already completed it?

                Replay value. Often, I'll play through the game on 'easy' then work my way up through the levels of difficulty (good way to find easter eggs/etc), its also a good way to catch stuff you miss the first time around.

                I've heard this argument again and again that 'if it's really good I'll buy a copy just to put on the shelf to reward the developers.'. It's bullshit.

                Actually, it's far

        • Re:hmm... (Score:3, Informative)

          by Dun Malg (230075)
          There is an old cliche, "It is time to shoot the engineers and move into production: And yes, I AM AN Engineer, and like all engineers, I have the same tendency:----> Fact of life: Many engineers, given the chance, will keep polishing the helmet because there is another speck of dust on it.

          My father, an engineer, worked for Hughes Aircraft as a project manager for years. What he most often had to tell the engineers he managed was "better is the enemy of good enough". Engineers...always trying to mak

        • Re:hmm... (Score:3, Funny)

          by Slur (61510)
          Now come on, do you really need an excuse to "polish the helmet"? I'd think you'd just do it when the mood strikes you. At least, that's my tendency.
      • having worked, and still working, in the the gaming industry for several years, a lot of the missed shipping dates arise from the marketing and biz people wanting to hit thier 'projected' sales peak timeframe (whatever that ambiguous time may be, however holiday release understandably being the only one which i feel has any credibility) -- anyhoo, biz/marketing people push for an unrealistic time frame, dev says it will be tough, though never saying 'Hell no we cant do it!' (even though this is what will ha
    • Re:hmm... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Friday February 13, 2004 @07:07PM (#8275701)
      I take it a step further - ignore the game release dates altogether and buy them after they've been out for a month - the previously priced 50$ video game is now $10.

      You're so right : I've just bought Xenon II for the Atari ST (excellent gameplay under the STonX emulator) and they actually payed me to buy it!
    • Re:hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by edwdig (47888) on Friday February 13, 2004 @07:19PM (#8275789)
      That's only true for PC games. Console games tend to take 6-12 months to be reduced in price. Games that totally bomb might get reduced in price sooner, whereas games that did really well will take forever to come down in price (notice how it took about 2 years for Halo to drop in price).

      Unless you're planning on waiting a long time to get the game, you're better off buying it right away, as there's a decent number of stores that will give you a discount for preordering, or will sell it at a cheaper price for the first few days.
    • Re:hmm... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by 3Suns (250606) on Friday February 13, 2004 @07:46PM (#8275965) Homepage
      Only the crappy ones. Half Life was released in 1998 and it's STILL being sold for >$30 in stores...
  • by chill (34294) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:34PM (#8275419) Journal
    You mean people aren't holding their breath waiting for DNF to get released? The YEARS of delays have damaged the possibility of sales? Gasp! Say it isn't so!

    -Charles
    • by n0nsensical (633430) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:44PM (#8275504)
      I'm beginning to think Duke Nukem Forever was just one big joke from the start. There is no game development company 3D Realms. It's 2 guys with a website seeing how long they can fool the world into thinking they're actually working on a game, and how many vaporware awards they can win.
      • And the funniest part about it is they waved the joke in our faces by telling us what the joke was right in the title of the "game."

        How long will you have to wait for it to be released. . . ?

        KFG
    • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:44PM (#8275509) Homepage Journal
      You mean people aren't holding their breath waiting for DNF to get released? The YEARS of delays have damaged the possibility of sales? Gasp! Say it isn't so!

      One problem is, missing the strike while the iron is hot. Duke Nukem was hot, now it's cool, now it's cold, and finally it's a dead fish on your doorstep and you wonder where it came from, now that you've moved on.

      There was some game, back in the day, I waited for eagerly on the Amiga. It looked like the be-all, end-all RPG and I wanted it so bad I'd scream in frustration each time I heard it was futher delayed (for quality control, etc.) Well, eventually I gave up. I don't know if it ever came out. I was onto something else.. NetHack, IIRC

    • DNF? What's that?*






      ( * Yes, that was cynicism. )

    • by Alan (347) <arcterex.ufies@org> on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:51PM (#8275576) Homepage
      Probably not :)

      People are waiting for Half Life 2 and Doom 3 to be released however. A good example of the 'late release == sucky game' can be seen in Daikatana. When it was released it was a very advanced game..... for two years ago (or whenever their original ship date was). Sadly they released it in the present, not the past, and therefor it sucked donkey balls.

      Hopefully Doom3 and HL2 get put out RSN and aren't subjected to the same fate.
      • by MooCows (718367)
        I disagree.

        Even when it would have been released 2 years ago it would've sucked donkey balls.
        There is too much WRONG with that game to list, even though it would be technologically ok on the original release date.
    • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:58PM (#8275629) Journal
      Dr. Obvious says: games that are in shops make more money than games that aren't.
  • Derek Smart (Score:4, Funny)

    by xeeno (313431) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:34PM (#8275420) Homepage
    Need I say more?
  • Not just games (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:35PM (#8275425) Homepage Journal
    Look, delays hurt *all* kinds of businesses. This is why most companies who know what they are doing do not comment on future products, and some (like Apple) go to great lengths to keep folks from knowing about projects in the works. Other companies who are less capable try and build enthusiasm by pre-announcing products to say, "Hey, look how cool we are".

    • Re:Not just games (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bamafan77 (565893) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:54PM (#8275595)
      Look, delays hurt *all* kinds of businesses. This is why most companies who know what they are doing do not comment on future products, and some (like Apple) go to great lengths to keep folks from knowing about projects in the works. Other companies who are less capable try and build enthusiasm by pre-announcing products to say, "Hey, look how cool we are".

      While what you say is true, it doesn't take into account other realistic scenarios. This isn't so much about fan disappointment from overzealous announcements, as about dealing with sensitive timing when it comes to outside collaborations with non-gaming companies(movie, toys, mags, etc). Tons of money is tied up into these collaborative schedules and unfortunately, game development (or software dev in general) isn't as condusive to predictive scheduling as other areas.

      Saying "No comment" or "It'll ship when it's done" is a lame-sounding option when partner companies have money tied up in your success too.
      • Re:Not just games (Score:3, Insightful)

        by soft_guy (534437)
        That's why you need to keep the information confidential between you and the other companies which is what Apple does. Remember how pissed they were when ATI sent out an early press release that blew the cover on some new G4 systems?

        Second, you need to forcast realistically. In gaming, there is really no execuse for a marketer to draw a line in the sand and say that a product is irrelevant after a certain date. If it is a good game, it will do fine. The importance of forcasting the release date is so that
    • Re:Not just games (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dukael_Mikakis (686324) <`andrewfoerster' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday February 13, 2004 @07:07PM (#8275700)
      Yes, file this under "duh".

      Of course it seems obvious to anybody ("delays hurt business? You mean if we don't have a product we won't have sales? You mean baseless hype irritates people? Well there goes our business model."). It's just especially noticeable in video games because they are notorious for delays (and have previously gotten away with them). For whatever reason it seems to me that movies and music generally come out on time, or are delayed well in advance.

      I was skeptical about video games being a bigger industry now, but it's true that video game sale [cnn.com] did surpass box office sales [boxofficemojo.com] in 2003 (interestingly, the CNN article also discusses video game delays). It feels like it's the result of the industry advancing too quickly and not knowing the general timeline for releases, or what they can expect to accomplish.

      Too often you hear about games trying to include/do too much or use technology that is too advanced. With music, for example, they know they're looking for 60 minutes (even 40 minutes these days?) of produced, committee-written whatever, a warm, silicone body to sing it and move it out the door. Gold album.

      For my money, wired is a fun interesting source for gadgets and stuff, but it's too sensationalist technology. It feels to me like it treats tech still as some miracle or black-box that is to be possessed but not truly known. It is just like wired to treat this like some groundbreaking news when video games and technology are, at heart, just like any other industry. Not a flame or a troll, just my thoughts.
      • Wired Egos... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by instarx (615765)
        For my money, wired is a fun interesting source for gadgets and stuff, but it's too sensationalist technology. It feels to me like it treats tech still as some miracle or black-box that is to be possessed but not truly known. It is just like wired to treat this like some groundbreaking news when video games and technology are, at heart, just like any other industry.

        Here is a little history of Wired. Back in the 60's there was a really cool magazine called Whole Earth Catalog. It was a large inch-thick n
  • The real problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:35PM (#8275427)
    The real problem is companies that delay games... and the finished product is still buggy or just plain sucks. Some game companies have earned the right to delay a game to ensure quality, and game buyers/players expect that. If Blizzard says they need more time, then we're willing to give it to them.
  • Fallout (Score:5, Funny)

    by centauri (217890) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:36PM (#8275429) Homepage
    fallout was usually just disappointment among fans

    No way, the first Fallout was great! The second one was way too buggy, though, and I'm not just talking about the ants and the radscorpions.
  • Come on... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Bendebecker (633126) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:36PM (#8275434) Journal
    This story has got Dukenukem Forever written all over it. One can learn all the things listed in the article just by reviewing its developemental history. Throw in an analysis of Daikatana ad you've mastered the issue.
  • by rebewt (588158)
    They should just skip using the calendar all together and set a release date of "when it is done". It would save so much pain and agony.
    • by katre (44238) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:43PM (#8275497)

      They should just skip using the calendar all together and set a release date of "when it is done". It would save so much pain and agony.

      Never heard of a little thing called marketing, have we? It takes time to build an ad campaign. It takes time to get ads in magazines, on billboards, in front of people. It takes time to get distributors to carry the game. Companies can't afford to develop a game, finish it, and then spend a few months convincing people they want to buy it. They need to have fans hungering for it as soon as its released: that's how you get huge sales numbers.

      • by Rallion (711805) on Friday February 13, 2004 @07:03PM (#8275665) Journal
        Blizzard is a fine counter-example to this. They suffer from far more delays than most companies, but none of it ever gets bad buzz--because the release date just changes from 'kinda sorta soon' to 'approaching soon-ness' and they never need to explicitly say so. This allows them to carry out their 'release it when it's done' strategy and never get anybody upset.

        And it's impossible to say they fail to generate hype. WoW beta got 400,000 signups. And, come on, the start date for the beta hasn't even been decided on yet!
      • by Analysis Paralysis (175834) on Friday February 13, 2004 @07:16PM (#8275767)
        This can backfire seriously if the game ends up being released without proper testing. Take Temple of Elemental Evil as a recent example - still buggy after the first patch (one of the bugs fixed was gems in a treasure chamber turning player characters into chairs...) and now a second patch is in testing (written by the head developer in his spare time). Pools of Radiance (Ruins of Myth Drannor) required four patches - one to fix a serious installer problem that could result in system files being deleted.

        The biggest example I can remember though was Frontier: First Encounters. Random hangs and crashes to the point of unplayability. Gametek had to run a second advertising campaign to tell everyone that they had fixed it!

    • That's what Bungie is doing with Halo 2.

      Of course I bitch to high heaven that I won't buy it when it eventually comes out because they keep delaying it, but we all know I'd sell a kidney to get a copy...
  • Price? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shepd (155729) <<slashdot.org> <at> <gmail.com>> on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:37PM (#8275440) Homepage Journal
    >What's more, missing a promised release date can bleed buzz, precious in an industry where many young buyers have to take the time to squirrel away $50 for a typical purchase.

    Sounds to me like it wouldn't be a problem if the price weren't something they'd have to "take the time to squirrel away".
    • Re:Price? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, sure would be nice if we were all rich bastards, wouldn't it...

      Seriously, though. I'm all for the demo models of games. Give me a level or so, and if it's good, there's a good chance I'll buy the game. Don't expect me to shell out $50 for something, sight unseen, and then be happy about it when it sucks.
  • by KingOfBLASH (620432) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:38PM (#8275452) Journal
    What's more, missing a promised release date can bleed buzz, precious in an industry where many young buyers have to take the time to squirrel away $50 for a typical purchase.'"

    I really wonder if this will be true 20 years from now when gamers like me who grew up playing games and have pay checks to buy what we want become a larger portion of the people who buy video games then teens. Of course, teens have much more time to play video games then people with jobs do, so perhaps this will never be true. I do hate playing MMORPGs -- not because I don't enjoy them, but because I can't compete with a 15 year old who can play the game 8 hours a day!

    • Or you'll realize that there are *gasp* more importatnt things to do with that $50 like putting gas in the car so you can go to work and earn more gas money...to be used getting to work...HEY something's just not right here!
    • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:52PM (#8275580) Homepage Journal
      I really wonder if this will be true 20 years from now when gamers like me who grew up playing games and have pay checks to buy what we want become a larger portion of the people who buy video games then teens.

      You won't. Take my word for it. You'll spend the money on rent, toys (like bikes, telescopes, computers), tickets, golf, golf, big screen TV, sports car and dozens of other things. And despite the fact that you're reading this, you might even hook up with a woman and that'll be the end of your disposable income.

    • I've had more time to play since I started working. when I finish work.... I finish work. No need to think about projects or studying.

      Having a wife and kids that's what's going to make me move away from games.
    • by Rallion (711805) on Friday February 13, 2004 @07:05PM (#8275684) Journal
      I can't compete with a 15 year old who can play the game 8 hours a day!

      Buddy, your problem is that you've somehow come to believe that 8 hours a day is a lot.

      Why sleep when you have so much item-hunting to do?
  • I disagree. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by monstroyer (748389) * <devnull@slashdot.org> on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:39PM (#8275462) Homepage Journal
    I think it helps the game industry. By creating so much undelivered hype and anticipation the frustrated gamer will lose patience and buy another game. The only undelivered games people tend to care about are ones that have a previous track record. Doom for example is anticipated because of the first Doom. By not delivering Doom on time, the young gamer will try something else and give 'new blood' a chance.
  • by Space cowboy (13680) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:41PM (#8275474) Journal
    The games companies aren't ickle teenagers in their bedrooms any more... I've just had 'Baldurs Gate Dark Alliance 2' (fantastic game, btw) which has a splash screen saying that over 100,000 man-hours were spent on the game...

    You have a release plan, you have a risk assessment, you have risk management. It's not a one-day's-brainstorming which ends up with 'ok, next Christmas then...'.

    The larger games companies are starting to seriously challenge the film industry for revenue, sometimes you get the film of the game (Tombraider) but most of the time you get the game of the film (everything else) - that should indicate where the power distribution lies; but it is dynamic, and a lot of effort will be put into maximising return on the large investment. Just like films. Big expenditure brings big risks and big rewards. Just like films...

    Simon.
  • Good point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:41PM (#8275477)
    The poster alluded to this, but not enough. Announcing the product before it ships is very important for the people who are deciding between buying a product now and waiting for a better product in the near future. The announcement of the game is saying "Hey, look how cool this is going to be. It beats all other games on the market now, so save up your money and use it for this instead of the instant gratification that won't last as long"

    The speculation and occasional leaks of information are vital towards feeding the anticipation of the game, and in many cases even surpass the actual quality of the game once it is released.

    If a company decided to not advertise a game until its release, I guarantee it will not meet with the same success that an eagerly anticipated game will see.
  • My response to this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SandSpider (60727) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:42PM (#8275481) Homepage Journal
    I sent a response to the Author and the Editors of wired.com. Hopefully it'll show up in the rants tomorrow, but...

    ------
    "The process starts when a producer conceives of a project and then goes through an internal sales process that can include being wildly optimistic about budgets and schedules, [Gifford] Calenda said."

    This is an interesting view, and yes, it certainly happens from time to time. However, as a former producer myself, I often find that I will present a reasonably budget, schedule, and feature list, only to see upper management tell me that the feature list is perfect, the budget is far too high, and the game needs to be done in half the time.

    Producers usually don't want their games to fail. There's very rarely an incentive on the producer's side to cut the development time, unless the producer is bad at making schedules (not uncommon) or the game is tied to a particular release date. However, most games being released are not tied to a release date such as a movie or sporting event.

    Upper management, or the publisher, if you're an independent developer, is significantly more likely to have a reason to cut the time and budget. Usually it's a) so the game doesn't cost as much; and b) so it gets out sooner, therefore generating sales revenue in a particular fiscal year. You can see why there will be pressure from management to either present a schedule that is unrealistic, or to cut a realistic schedule away from reality. Naturally, additional budget money is hard to get, and features could never be dropped, and those are really the only other ways of cutting the development time.

    I will grant you that, to a point, reducing development time and slashing budgets is a perfectly acceptable way to behave. It would be poor management that simply accepted a producer's word at every turn, because then the producers might take advantage of the unwary eye of management. However, management needs to listen to the producers if they tell them that a particular project is 'unlikely' or 'impossible'. If the people in charge of making decisions tell the project team to go ahead with the hobbled schedule and budget, then the project will likely slip.

    The worst part is when the development team has to take shortcuts to get the project out on time which result in more QA time at the end of the project. The ironic part is when the projects slips to meet the original schedule, but you had to do it the hard way, with lots of bug fixing and messy code.

    I hope this is a trend that goes away sometime soon in game development. The three worst habits in the Game Industry are poor scheduling, mandatory overtime, and laying off the project team or studio when the game is finished, and usually those three go hand-in-hand. It's a shame when the producers are solely blamed for the process, when it is terribly unlikely that they are the primary cause.
    ------

    =Brian
  • I don't know... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Comatose51 (687974) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:42PM (#8275487) Homepage
    Delaying game releases seem to work well for Blizzard. Of course their games are always backwards in terms of technology but their story and gameplay are excellent. Maybe we should worry less about sophistication and technology and more about the non-visual aspects of the story? Then again, their FMVs are excellent, same with SquareSoft's. An interesting story with nice FMVs as reward for completing each stage seem to be the common theme here.
    • Re:I don't know... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bendebecker (633126) on Friday February 13, 2004 @07:07PM (#8275699) Journal
      The problem with squaresoft is that lately it looks like you'll end up with a 10 minute cutscreen every two minutes. Theirs a point where you have to distinguish between a game with movies in between and a movie with a game in between. Getting back to the orginal idea, Blizzard does alright becuase they worry about the story and gameplay over the graphics, just a little too much though. Squaresoft is on the opposite side, they lean towards the movies just a little too much. But both are close to the sweet spot called 'balance'.
    • Re:I don't know... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MP3Chuck (652277)
      Not to mention replayability... no story or FMV's can make up for crappy gameplay. Blizzard's games have B.net and level tools for a great online experience. And SquareSoft's game environments are usually so rich that you can spend hundereds of hours on a game and still not find everything there is to find.
  • HL2 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bozyo25 (242110) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:42PM (#8275493)
    Had Half-Life 2 been released about 6 months ago when it was planned for, I know lots of people who had intended to buy it... and these are even people who never buy anything, since downloading games is so easy.
    HL2's graphics would have been so very advanced had it not been delayed repeatedly, but by now it won't really have much advantage over other games' graphics by the time it comes out this summer. I expect it'll still be a great game, with pretty exceptional graphics, but a lot more people were excited by it before.
    • Re:HL2 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Frenchy_2001 (659163)
      HL2 has a lot of buzz going for it, however, more than the awesome graphics, this is especially the HL1 legacy that people are looking for:
      - great story
      - great levels
      - good playability
      - never boring

      The games with wonderful graphics are 5 a dozen, what is lacking lately is gameplay and HL1 had lots of it.

      For the recards, HL1 was one of the most delayed game. When they had an almost final product, the team met and reviewed it objectively, reaching the conclusion than their game was a "me too!" game
  • IMO (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Arcanix (140337)
    I think it has a lot to do with the whole franchise aspect, they don't want to ruin a namebrand permanently by rushing it out with horrible flaws. If it's a one-shot game then a bunch of people will buy it and be pissed but as long as there's no follow up it won't hurt the company too bad.
  • by danaan (728990) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:43PM (#8275500)
    While it's true that delays in shipping a title can hurt sales and alienate potential customers, I think what it really comes down to is a company keeping its promises, and the way it communicates with those customers. NeverwinterNights is the perfect example. Not only did they fail to deliver on time or as promised, they waited until the very last moment to give any explanation to customers, and even those explanations didn't make sense. They had to have known they weren't going to be able to produce way in advance.

    You simply can't treat customers that way. Disney (despite it's current troubles) has made a mint on underpromising and over-delivering, and game companies need to start to take notice that they don't operate under a seperate rule system from the rest of their entertainment competition.

    The culture of game development has a great deal wrong with it, and missing deadlines is really only the tip of the iceberg.
  • by deanj (519759) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:44PM (#8275511)
    You know, if marketing would just STFU until there was a good solid date for a game, and not one that they pulled out of thin air, there wouldn't be nearly the number of problems there are.

    Sure, there are engineering slips, but the majority of those are because marketing (or worse, engineering management) gave the CEO a date he WANTED to hear, not the date he NEEDED to hear.

    Engineering slips because the date was unrealistic, marketing points the finger, and never gets the blame.
  • by Mulletproof (513805) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:46PM (#8275527) Homepage Journal
    "Delays Hurt Video Game Business"

    NEWS FLASH!!!
    EXCESSIVE DELAYS HURT ANY INDUSTRY!!!
    Please move along, nothing to news here.
  • by kevin_conaway (585204) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:46PM (#8275534) Homepage
    Companies should develop a solid storyline and some good gameplay characteristics before announcing a game. Id rather have a fun game that doesnt require the latest and greatest than one that has all full motion video but no real substance. Hell i still play Quake 1/2 and Duke3d. Those games have stories and they are fun to play!
  • Games with bugs... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by n()_cHIEFz (203036) <nochiefs@hotmail.BALDWINcom minus author> on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:48PM (#8275547) Homepage
    Another thing that really irks me after spending $50 of my hard earned cash is the fact that a lot of these games seem to have really bad bugs when they are released. The most recent example was Tiger Woods 2003 for the mac (yea, I know, I should be playing on pc, but it happens there too). I bought the game and it wouldn't play with my ATI video card (unplayable with crappy graphics settings). I had to wait for the first bug fix for a playable game. UT2003 for PC is another example of a PC game I had alot of problems with. You would think with all the xtra time that companies are taking to release the games, they would try and release something halfway stable. And, no on my PC I'm not running really out-there hardware.
    • You would think with all the xtra time

      Yeah, don't you hate it when people half-ass things because they are too lazy to make it presentable to other people?
  • They can't win (Score:2, Interesting)

    by RandBlade (749321)
    If games are released on time, but buggy, then they get flamed and attacked. If they delay to perfect the bugs, then they get flamed and attacked. Either way there is a problem, and I know which way I'd prefer they go. I have no problem waiting for a good release over getting a buggy one and waiting for the patches to dribble out.

    Having said that though, there are very few games I've waited for which have come out on time lately. So the companies should definitely learn. I for one have stopped paying atten
    • Re:They can't win (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ceyan (668082)
      That theory is all well and fine except for one small problem. Games can be released according to the published releaste date and not be buggy as hell and a decent game. It's not the tradeoff, it's just that very few companies set realistic release dates. I can't even begin to imagine the whole process, but something is wrong with it if so many companies are pushing back release dates.
  • I disagree... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by signalgod (233854)
    I don't think the game delays hurt sales. When Duke comes out, I'll buy it, no doubt. If it's a big name game, it will still sell.

    On the other hand, the thing that pisses me off about the game release delays is the the developers are 'debugging'. I think that's bull.

    How many games don't release a service pack/update/bugfix within a couple of months of the game release anyway?
  • The video game industry is broken. Inventing all new technology for every .1 release of a game makes it nearly impossible to make money unless a publisher has $$$$$$$$ to throw four dozen programmers at a project, which is itself nearly unmanageable.

    The industry would make more money if it stopped inventing and started producing.
    • Re:Broken (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bendebecker (633126)
      That was one of Atari's mistakes. The term 'Cartridge Glut' ring a bell? People begamn producing games faster than sewing machines with the only interest being to create carts to make money and screw leaps forward, no one could tell what games were good cause most of them sucked, and bam - no one could make money. The market was flooded with games and no one company could make enough money to make it. Imagic fell, Atari collapsed, Appollo imploded. By pushing the envelope and constantly inventing, companies
  • by faust2097 (137829) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:50PM (#8275570)
    an industry where many young buyers have to take the time to squirrel away $50 for a typical purchase.

    Haven't we already seen tons of consumer data that shows that almost all money spent on games is by people over the age of 25? And aren't both Half-Life 2 and Duke Nukem Forever going to be rated M?
  • Still, everyone involved agrees on one thing -- slips in release dates ultimately matter less than shipping an awesome game.

    dur, really? thanks for this insightful article
  • by bckrispi (725257) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:57PM (#8275615)
    I would rather see an anticipated title come to market 12 months late and be solid than have it be released on time and suck because of bugs and underimplemented features. Lets face it, the cost overruns of a game coming out late can easily be recovered if:
    1. The game itself is good
    2. Users aren't turned off right away becuase of bugs and other annoyances that are the hallmark of rushed titles

    For example: Let's look at a case where the title released "on time" but sucked ass. The definitive example of this was Ultima 9. This was supposed to be Richard Garriot's 'swan song' for the Ultima series. The final chapter in a very successful and much loved 20 year old franchise. Immense pressure from the EA suits forced Garriot (against his pleas) to make sure U9 "shipped by Christmas". It met the delivery date expectation: at the expense of the consumer's expectations. The game was virtually unplayable. Bugs ranging from annoyances to full blown "quest killers" were rampant. Add that to the fact that you'd need a fully "state of the art" (+$2500) system to even load the thing. U9 entered the marked at $60 dollars. I never even saw it hit the $9.95 rack. It just disappeared.

    Now for a company that consistantly delivers late, we need look no farther than Blizzard. Starcraft, Diablo (1 & 2), Warcraft 3 were all "vapor" for many moons. They also rank as the most successful titles in PC gaming history, with longevity and replay value that is unsurpassed. WC3 is nearly three years old, and it still sells for $40+. Diablo 2 debuted in 2000, and was on the top 10 seller list no later than 6 months ago.

    As a consumer, I'm not going to spend my $50 on crap or a mediocre product. If I'm curious about a game, I'll wait till it hit's the $10 rack anyway (about 4-6 months after the release date - gotta love the irony). But if it's a hot title from a company with a record for Quality out of the box, not after "patch1.4", I'll drop the $50.

  • by dookie (136297)
    Love them or hate them, but id software probably has the best solution to the problem. They have always set their release dates as "when it's done" and it has always been for the best. I'm not referring to the (nearly) total lack of storyline but the fact that you don't go out, buy the game, and go home and download a fix for it. As far as I know, sales for id games don't suffer from delays. Perhaps the bigger problem is lack of quality products: you aren't nearly so ticked off when a game is delayed b
  • Unofficial poll: How many times have you read a review that said that the graphics / sounds / animations etc. looked "dated" or worse yet, "outdated"? Many a game in the past have flopped because they didn't get out before the "next-gen" titles.

    Yes, the games are getting bigger, and so are the stakes. But there was a helluva lot more at stake than just "some disgruntled fans" in the past too. Fans were never the issue, they will stand by their game. It is, and always was the mass market that is at stake.

    K
    • Gotta disagree with you there. Diablo 2 came out in summer 2000. It had no 3D accelleration, and couldn't display in resolution greater than 640x480. Dated graphics can be looked over simply by a game being "fun". Just look at the sales of the lates Tetris title. Even on modern consoles, it's not all that flashy, but people buy it anyway. Compare that to the masses of games that are flasy, gorgeous, visually impressive, but about as much fun as plucking your nose hairs.
  • by morganjharvey (638479) on Friday February 13, 2004 @06:57PM (#8275623)
    precious in an industry where many young buyers have to take the time to squirrel away $50 for a typical purchase.

    See, this wouldn't be a problem if they were just taking the money out of their mother's purses like they're supposed to.
  • by rock_climbing_guy (630276) on Friday February 13, 2004 @07:18PM (#8275784) Journal
    Does anyone on Slashdot frequent video arcades? I think the height of rushing unfinished games out the door was when they released the Mortal Kombat 4 ARCADE game. For those of you who are not familiar, Mortal Kombat 4 shipped without all the fighters in the game. They actually patched the game by sending out new circuit boards.

    Imagine that! Not only do we have to download patches from the internet. They actually had the balls to tell operators to install new circuitboards so they could rush something out the door.

  • by greymond (539980) on Friday February 13, 2004 @07:34PM (#8275899) Homepage Journal
    Blizzard and ID are 2 different type of game companies that both say

    Blizz "hay were making a game"
    Kid "OMFG when is it going to be out? Is it out yet?"
    Blizz "STFU you'll get it when it's done"

    ID "Hay were making a game"
    Kid "OMFG when is it going to be out? Is it out yet?"
    ID "STFU you'll get it when it's done"

    Neither of those companies will hurt for sales...they have a loyal fanbase, just the same as SE does with it's FF series...the good companies own our souls and we can't not give in to them.

    OH wait this is slashdot so maybe your talking about those open source games that are announced and then never come out or are released in varying alpha and beta stages over a 6 year period and never finished...yeah I guess that would hurt your company. :p
  • by Rick Richardson (87058) on Friday February 13, 2004 @07:43PM (#8275944) Homepage
    I should state up front that I'm not interested and have never been interested in any of the sports or first person shooter games. So right off the bat I'm in the minority, and my opinion is suspect.

    My two big beefs with console video games are:

    1) Not milking the platform for all its worth. I loved all the Mario and Zelda games. But I will never understand why Nintendo doesn't create new variations of those games, with new puzzles, but using the same world.

    2) Console wars. These game manufacturers are in a race to create the next console. But why? I don't want to buy a new console. I want to buy more *GOOD* games for the consoles I already have. Games are not starved for technology. They are starved for creativity.

    -Rick
  • by dmaxwell (43234) on Friday February 13, 2004 @07:47PM (#8275979)
    Must...resist...urge....to...make..Duke Nukem Forever post!
  • by Arch-out (710539) on Friday February 13, 2004 @07:48PM (#8275980) Homepage
    I don't know about the rest of you, but I had planed to buy HL2 and then upgrade my hardware to run it if I had to. So no HL2 no new hardware. I dont think I am the only one that does this, and it would hurt the hardware people as well.
  • Bass-ackwards. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mbourgon (186257) on Friday February 13, 2004 @08:06PM (#8276129) Homepage
    The delays don't kill a game. A bad game, released early, will still not sell. A good game, released late, will still sell. While a good game can become bad if forced to release early (*cough* Temple of Elemental Evil *cough*), I'd rather have the delay and have a completed game.

    The real problem is the hyping of games. They're hyping games that won't be out for over a year. I'm constantly surprised by games that just came out (I thought Chrome came out months ago, based on the hype back then). I suspect other people are, too.
  • by sakshale (598643) on Friday February 13, 2004 @08:22PM (#8276252) Homepage Journal
    URU online* was just killed (laggy, unscalable design), SWG is trying to pull back all those who tried it and quit (great engine, no content), and I bailed FFIX (great content, poor user interface).

    Getting it out the door in a non-playable state is worse than getting it out late. Players will put up with some level of problems when a new on-line game is released. However, it there is not drastic improvement in the first month, they are gone for good.

    Harvest started out shaky, but there has been so many positive changes that many are still hanging on.

    The real problem is lack of communication with the customer base. Talk to us and we are very forgiving. Lie to us and we'll tell the world. (Or as least /. :)

    * This one was wierd - They released the game CD's while the on-line version was still in Beta! Only, they never called it a Beta, the called it a "Prelude"! 30 player limit per server, expanded to 35! Would that be called a MicroMulti-Player Online Game?
    • I bailed FFIX (great content, poor user interface).

      I think you ment to say FFXI (FF11) since FFIX (FF9) was a singleplayer game only and was for the PS1.

      Also, I don't think you made a fair judgement on FFXI. Don't forget the game is/was designed for PS2 gaming, so having too many seperate menus wouldn't be an option without turning the PS2 into a very rigid PC.

  • by myklgrant (529062) on Friday February 13, 2004 @08:28PM (#8276306) Homepage
    What if Hollywood acted the way game companies act. We would still be waiting for LOTR TTT. Peter Jackson would make some comment like: "It will be released when it is ready." Some of the delay may be attributed to the immaturity of the game industry (in relation to Hollywood) but still...
  • by wowbagger (69688) on Friday February 13, 2004 @08:32PM (#8276334) Homepage Journal
    "Sometimes you have to shoot the enginner and ship the product."

    Back off that flamebait, friend - I *AM* the engineer.

    If you adopt a "We will ship this when it is done" then it never will be done, for a variety of reasons:
    1. The engineer will always think up some cool new feature, and absent any motivation not to, put it into the product. It takes YEARS of experience to learn the self-control to not do this (hell, I have decades of experience and I still succumb to that temptation on occasion.)
    2. The marketing guys will always think up some cool new feature, and absent any motivation not to, pester the engineer to put it in.
    3. The Q/A guys will say "I won't waste my time looking at anything that is not at least a release candidate." If the engineer releases an RC, absent any firm schedule, the Q/A guys will blow it off and not test it.
    4. When the Q/A guys finally do get bored enough to look at the code, they WILL find bugs, so there will always be one more bug to fix, and absent any motivation not to, the engineer will fix the bug in the current codebase - thus generating a new version that must go through Q/A (see above).


    Sometimes having a firm deadline is a wonderfully focusing motivator - the engineer will say "This is a cool idea - I will save it for AFTER the release", the marketing guys will say "Well, the customers want this really cool feature, but the return on investment isn't enough to jepordize the ship date, so we'll put it in later", the Q/A guys say "We'd better check this NOW, so any problems can get fixed before release data", and you actually make progress.

    Of course, when the deadlines are not set with the buy-in of the engineers, the marketing people, and upper management, but rather are set for some highly arbitrary date....
  • by DenOfEarth (162699) on Friday February 13, 2004 @08:45PM (#8276417) Homepage

    As I sit here, after just playing a bit of halo on my xbox, I'm thinking about how the release of halo 2 has been pushed back to fall of this year. It doesn't bother me so much, as long as the game itself is good. One could say that it would be better for bungie to release a half-cooked halo 2 now, in the hope of selling more units, but I think that if bungie wants to release one of those games that are pretty much immortal and that I'll remember for a long time (such as the first halo), then they should release it when it is properly finished.

    Reminds of Diablo 2 being pushed back over a year from its initial release date. For that matter, most of blizzard's games get pushed back, but the proof is in the pudding, blizzard puts the finishing touches on the games, making them top notch, and hence they move huge volumes at the stores. Did any company ever make as huge a return by releasing a buggy, unfinished product?

    What's the big rush anyways? There are so many games out at any given time, that are good and worthwhile to play, that it doesn't bug me for a second if a company decides to delay their game to make it a much more quality product. I'll pay for a quality product, I won't pay for something that was pushed out the door, simply because the game company needed to ship something.

    As for duke nukem forever, I'll be interested to see what they will unleash on us after all that development time. I wouldn't be surprised if it's a much cooler game than we all imagine it will be. But, that's for time to tell.

  • by incom (570967) on Friday February 13, 2004 @09:09PM (#8276554)
    If they release a game *late* that still requires patches, isn't that a double whammy? As an aside, what is the most important missing feature caused by not enough devel time? For me it would be in FF7 when they whad planned to be able to revive Aris(sp?) but canned that idea because of time constraints.
  • Well Tough! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by metroid composite (710698) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @02:33AM (#8278108) Homepage Journal
    Books get delayed all the time. Phillip Pullman's The Book of Dust [bridgetothestars.net] has been "in progress" for years. J.K. Rowlings Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix [hp-lexicon.org] was delayed far longer than any other book in the series (and had a record launch as far as book sales go).

    Some games have plot (and in exceptional cases about as good as your average fantasy book). Why shouldn't they be able to delay? Some (though not all) of the books we still read as great literature were edited and rescripted for 20 years. Screw cash flow and give me quality!

  • by Tim Browse (9263) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @06:41AM (#8278813)
    "A good game is only late until it ships. A bad game sucks forever."

    Or, to quote Sid Meier:

    "Great game. On time. Pick one."

    Being a games developer myself, one thing that winds me up is hearing the poor quality of games being blamed on 'lazy developers'. Now, it's true that many games developers may not have the best engineering skills in the world, or be any good at planning/project management, but trust me, having seen so many people work late nights/weekends for long stretches of time, the problem is not that they are 'lazy', or that they don't care about the quality of the product. Lay that particular blame at the doors of other people, where it rightfully belongs.

    As for dates - that usually comes down to publishers, rather than developers, as has been pointed out. The publishers push for a date related to their selling peaks (i.e. Thanksgiving), and usually refuse to consider any other date, even though they'll be going up against almost every other game that is released that year. Developers are pretty much powerless to prevent this - unless you're Valve or Bungie or Blizzard, then the publishers have all the money, and they dictate the terms. (Speaking personally, I loved the fact that when Valve demo'd Half-Life 2 at E3 and blew everyone away, they responded to questions about publishers with "We don't have a publisher yet." Unless you've worked in game development, you've probably no idea how good it felt to hear that.)

    Publishers also need stuff to give their marketing [guyswithtowels.com] guys to take around and show buyers to build interest in the game. This usually comes in the form of some shoddy demo/progress build that the developers are harrassed into producing. The same goes for game demos - ever wonder why most game demos don't actually seem to do a good job of demo'ing the game, and have lots of problems that 'will be fixed in the final game'? It's because the publishers demand a demo before the game is finished.

    On a game I worked on previously, we tried to avoid building up lots of hype for the game when it wasn't ready, and focussed on quality, because that's what we thought people would be interested in. Hell, no, the publisher didn't seem to care about that. They wanted screenshots, and they wanted them now! Never mind that the game wasn't even a game yet. The most important thing to them seemed to be when the profits would show up on their books. For example, they wouldn't accept a 3 month delay because then the income would slip through to the next financial year. I mean, the profits would be the same (actually, they would probably be significantly larger); they would just be appearing 3 months later. Now, I don't know much about accountancy/finance, but it seems to me that something somewhere is broken if that's how things are run. The best part was, in the trade mags, all we ever heard from games publishers was how developers were useless at business and couldn't see the bigger picture.

    If your focus is always on the next quarter's results, at the expense of everything else, I think that's a good way of not having a long term plan.

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