When it comes to video game releases, we’re rather spoiled for choice, as it goes. Barely a week goes by without a new live-service game launching or an indie darling sprouting to life. Even triple-A blockbusters from the likes of EA, Ubisoft and Sony release across the calendar with only a mild focus on holiday release windows.
Even so, games are not simple creations to construct. It’s not just a case of flicking a few switches and waving a magic wand. Games are complicated pieces of software with endless moving parts, all being manipulated at the same time by some of the hardest workers out there.
It should come as no surprise that video games sometimes take longer to make than anticipated. And yet, developers are still under immense pressure to publish their games as soon as they physically can.
Just this week, Arkane Studios made the difficult decision to delay their anticipated shooter Deathloop from May to September of this year.
In a statement on Twitter, Deathloop Game Director Djinga Bakaba said: “At Arkane, we have a strong vision for Deathloop and we don’t want to compromise on that. But we also need to do everything we can to ensure the health and safety of everyone in the studio.”
Deathloop’s delay arrives in unusual times given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Where studios are usually balancing budget and staff hours, game studios now also have the added difficulty of enabling staff to safely, either at home or in alternative COVID safe environments.
Perhaps one of Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto’s most infamous quotes is: “a delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad,”. Fortunately, it appears that most gamers have caught onto this truth. Many of the replies to Arkane’s statement praise the developer for taking the extra time needed to finish the game.
One tweet reads: “Definitely take the time you need to ensure the game is the best it can be without overwhelming the developers ^_^. I’m looking forward to playing no matter the release date!”
While Miyamoto, in all of his wisdom, is certainly onto something, we need only turn the clocks back six months to remember a time when even a delayed game turned out disastrous.
Here lies Cyberpunk, 2020
After years of anticipation, the shocking state of Cyberpunk 2077 release caught almost everyone off guard. Even after several dreaded yellow walls of text announcing delay after delay, the game was barely playable on any platform, near impossible on a last-gen console. Any goodwill that CDProjekt Red had after the release of their darling magnum opus, The Witcher 3, is down the drain.
With a project as ambitious as Cyberpunk 2077 (as we said, creating a video game is no small feat), it clearly needs as much time in the development oven as possible before it should be released. According to a report [via Bloomberg], some developers at CDProjekt Red knew that Cyberpunk wasn’t ready to release.
At some point, a game has to be released. Part of a Lead Producer’s job description is to balance a game’s production budget and timescale against features that they’d like to include. When a game becomes so ambitious with features, it ends up in a constant cycle of never releasing. Star Citizen is a perfect example of this.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
Another game that seems as though it will never release is Dying Light 2. First announced at E3 2018, we still don’t have a confirmed release date. It was initially meant to hit shelves in Spring of 2020, but was then pushed back until the end of 2021.
It’s speculated that the game is in some state of ‘dev hell’, a term commonly used when a game seems to be making no perceivable progress in its development. Developer Technland have disputed this, however, recently claiming that they may have announced Dying Light 2 a little too early.
The reason for game delays aren’t limited to technical issues. Techland alone has seen staff departures after allegations of sexual assault [via Eurogamer], and other allegations of having a toxic workplace environment [via TheGamer]. In 2018, Rockstar Games were criticised for allowing some of their staff to work 100-hour work weeks to help get the game published on time [via gamesindustry.biz].
Maybe it’s not as cut and dry as ‘delayed game = good’, though there is certainly mounds of evidence that would support that. The Witcher 3, The Last Guardian and DOOM are all games that were endlessly delayed but ended up becoming some of the all-time greats.
But game development isn’t just about the product that we download to our hard drives, and we should keep that in mind when putting pressure on developers to get their next big thing out of the door. As is made clear in the case of Deathloop, game delays often aren’t just for the sake of the art – it’s for the sake of the people making it, too.
[Feature Image Credit: CD Projekt Red]