Does it seem like every game that for the PC right when it comes out it has some major problems? Almost all games have a day zero patch that needs to be downloaded in order to address problems on the launch day. Recently, Batman: Arkham Knight was released but just days later Warner Brothers did the unprecedented move of actually s from services like Steam until the game could be patched. So why did this happen and what exactly is causing the problem?
Release Dates Determined by Marketing
Developing a top notch game for any system is a very demanding process. It can take years to perfect a game engine to get the right level of performance and gameplay. Developers and publishers are generally at great odds over the release date for games. Publishers tend to invest money into the developer to build the game and they want to see a return on that investment through sales. The longer a game takes to develop, the longer they have to wait for returns on their investment. Developers generally would like to have the time to make sure the game works properly.
In order to try and drum up interest in a game, developers and particularly publishers are often trying to get consumers interested in it by talking about the game and showing off what the game will be. Of course the sales are what matter and so publishers push the dates to release. The problem is that the game developers typically have to rush the game production in order to meet the publisher;s deadlines. In order to meet these deadlines and have a functional game, often the games will be released with either fewer features or content than was initially announce for the game or it will have technical issues that impact the gameplay which will be patched post launch. This may be due due to the lack or resources to properly test for all the various hardware it could be played on.
Building for Multiple Platforms
Many of the PC game issues stem from the fact that the games are originally intended to be developed for gaming consoles like the Playstation and XBOX and are then ported over to the PC. This means that the focus is on getting the games up and working smoothly with the fixed hardware of the consoles. This is much easier as the systems are all the same and you don’t have to worry about the myriad of PC hardware configurations that might attempt to play the PC game.
So, the original code for the game is probably written for a game console and then to put it out on the PC, that game code must be modified to run under the PC environment. Often porting the software is not done by the original publisher of the game but an external developer that is tasked with taking the working code for the game and reworking it for the Windows operating system. Batman: Arkham Knight is one game that falls into this category. This is not an easy task and as a result, the software is generally well tested for a specific set of hardware but not every possible configuration. If you don’t happen to have the same graphics card, operating system version or even processor speeds, you could see significant performance issues.
Steam Early Access
Now this problem is not just confined to newly released PC games but also for games that are sold with early or beta access. program is a perfect example of this. Publishers can essentially offer beta access to those people who want to purchase the game before its release. It certainly helps developers by providing them an income source while the game is in development. It is invaluable for an independent publisher. The problem is that the software that is available prior to release is often in early beta versions that have either extremely limited content or contains major bugs that prevent the games from being played. Lego Worlds is just such an example with its extremely limited content.
This is a problem for consumers in two ways. First, it can give the false impression to the consumer that they are buying a finished game. With the introduction of , this could end up being a major headache for publishers as consumers try an early access game, fail to be able to play it and then demand a refund. This causes the second issue which is negative publicity for the game and the publisher which can then impact future sales.
What Should You Do As a Consumer?
Frankly, there is not much a consumer can do. The primary option is to not pre-purchase games or buy them when they first launch until the games are patched into a working condition. This lets the publishers know that you want a working game and not a beta that may be unplayable. With Steam;s new refund policy for digital purchase, you can always opt for the refund but there are a number of restrictions where it is best not to risk it unless you know for sure you want the game regardless of how playable it might be at launch.
But what about KickStarting a game? Independent developers are often taking to crowd funding games so they can actually publish without having to use a major publisher. This can help them make the game they want with less restrictions. This is akin to pre-purchasing a game but with even greater risk. After all, the game may never get released or be released in a poor state with no potential for correction for it to be a working product. This of course is buyer beware so I don’t generally recommend it.