The Waiting Game

by Tabitha Wang

We recently put out a call for new contributors here at 4cr to liven things up and continue to provide unique and diverse views of gaming and gamer culture. We had a bunch of great submissions but narrowed it down to three new contributors. So without further ado, we’d like to introduce Tabitha Wang, with her take on the impact of game delays!

“[insert game title here] has been delayed from release until [insert some possibly-near-future date. Or maybe never at all].” It seems to be a common headline these days, and people are getting frustrated by it. Got a game you’re looking forward to? Just kidding, you need to wait some more, even though the title was announced about two years ago. In some cases, titles are announced and then are never heard from again, despite studios claiming work is still happening. A certain game about a big giant bird thing and the word “Guardian” comes to mind, but that’s a delay in a league of its own.

While some of us are, more or less, okay with a short delay to make sure bugs are squashed and things are running smoothly, a vast majority of the gaming populace is quick to express their dismay (in the most gentle of terms). This in turn begs the question: is it ever okay to keep delaying a game? Just how long is way too long? (Hint: Fifteen years is way too bloody long.)

There’s a hundred different scenarios as to why a title might be delayed. Maybe there was a game-breaking bug found during QA, or a save file corruption problem. Then again, it might be that your character would look like a gigantic idiot pretending to swim in the air, or you might have become an Accidental Moses. Whatever the case may be, delays would have worked in the favor of big titles like Skyrim (the forecast around Whiterun still calls for some morning clouds with a 65% chance of Giants) or Assassin’s Creed III to fix certain problems.

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Some of the recent casualties of the Hammer of Polishing Delays are highly anticipated titles. Sony’s big and bold exclusive, The Order: 1886, was hit with a delay for some months. Originally planned to be released some time in 2014, Sony has now said that the title won’t be making an appearance on the PlayStation 4 until 2015. “To deliver that experience that we’ve wanted, and that we hope players expect, we’re targeting an early 2015 release on the game,” says the game’s creative director Ru Weerasuriya. “…we’re really trying to hone in on that level of polish.” (via Game Informer.)

Following on the heels of that announcement, Shinji Mikami’s highly-anticipated survival-horror game The Evil Within was also pushed back — from August to October of this year. Mikami and his team at Tango Gameworks have asked for more time to refine the game instead of quickly kicking it out the door to meet a deadline (via Game Informer).

While frustrating to most of us, these delays are understandable. We’d rather not have another Elder Scrolls on our hands, although the idea of severed limbs idly flopping around, randomly falling through the ceiling, or just floating in mid-air in The Evil Within might actually add to the experience. Delays for years upon years? Not so much. The infamous poster-boy for these “prolonged development cycles” (involving a man with a royal name and something about nuking stuff) has already shown the decisively negative side to extremely long delays: heightened expectations. What was originally meant to be a “ground-breaking” game turned out to be a complete commercial and critical flop thanks to its outdated ideas and presentation.

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Now comes the big “if” everyone’s been waiting on. In development since 2007 and officially revealed in 2009, Team ICO’s The Last Guardian has been in an uncertain limbo ever since. First slated for release on the PlayStation 3 in 2011, the title has now mysteriously vanished from any solid timeline. The faithful are hoping to finally see something announced as a part of this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo madness, but the game is now moving into its seventh (or is it eighth?) year of…whatever it is it’s supposed to be doing. Sony’s Scott Rohde (via IGN) recently said that The Last Guardian is “still in the mix” at Sony’s Worldwide Studios, but says he’s “not going to announce what platform it’s coming on, who’s working on it, who’s involved. But that is still a title that’s absolutely in the mix at Worldwide Studios. That’s the most you’re gonna get.”

That sound you just heard was the crack of a keyboard as it flew out the window. Expectations continue to grow as consumers remain desperate for information, and not without good reason. The first few screenshots released in 2009 were of the odd half-bird creature, its ward, and a stark (albeit beautiful) atmosphere. However, with the long development cycle, numerous delays, and lack of information, many are feeling skittish about the future of this title. It’ll be a wonder if this game will live up to the expectations that are now going to come along with it. The studio has had seven years or so to work on it. What will it bring to the table now?

The word “delay” has always carried a bad taste with it. Some of us have a slightly better time stomaching and accepting it, but most of us don’t. Delays are downright aggravating like a tiny splinter stuck in your finger that you can’t find to pull it out. Sure, your two-month delay to polish the game had better be worth it. Most of the time it is. Delays for seven years? Fifteen years? There’s only so much gamers are willing to endure, and waiting for more than a decade is not one of them. Most of us would argue that even two years is too long. By all means, announce the title and show us something to demonstrate it’s at least in existence. Just don’t keep us waiting without an update, and don’t keep saying, “Sorry guys, gotta wait at least another year. That’s all we got.”

Now, where’s that concept art we filed away for Prey 2?

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