As technology gets more and more advanced, the resulting entertainment follows suit. Currently, there are four main avenues of next generation gaming. The X-Box 360, the Playstation 3, the personal computer, and the Nintendo Wii. For this conversation we will exclude the Nintendo Wii, as that console isn’t running into the pitfalls of the other three platforms (and in fact, is outselling the others by a steady rate). The problem being faced by the consumer, are games being shoveled out at roughly 80% completion (if we are lucky).
More and more often, the idea seems to be shove a game out, and then try and retroactively patch. As the consumers, we get to pay 50-60 dollars to be game companies Quality Assurance. Not that great of bargain in my opinion. First, we will focus on the computer. Some series of games are notorious for being a buggy mess covering a good game. Such is the case for the recent Total War Series games. The recent iterations standard of practice seems to be (in my opinion of course) push the game out, then after the fact try to patch the usually glaring holes. And I really like the games. I own the last 4 that have been released. But it doesn’t let the fact slide that for the first year and a half you are almost always waiting on patches to fix A.I. issues.
In fact, if you look around online, there are several player made mods that do a better job at improving the A.I., than the official patches. And this series of games are far from the worst offender. Look at Neverwinter Nights 2. First one was a big success. Second one was pushed out, some say nearly a year early. The first year of it’s life, the game was so buggy that multi-player was essentially abandoned by the players who had been waiting for it. And their own official forums were flooded by complaints, for bugs, and bad performance, and anything else associated with a game forced out too early. And instead of getting the fixes done, they pushed out two expansions on a yearly basis. So now you have a game, with the multi-player with at best maybe one-fifth of the player population of the original (and I’m being generous). These are just two specific examples.
Add into the mix draconian DRM, that makes owning a pirated copy far easier to use than an official copy, you can see why personal computer gaming is slowly falling off the cliff. But all these issues are also creeping into the console game world. With the current generation of gaming now having hard drives in the system, it has become open season for developers to push games out early. Then gamers are forced to try and patch the games, hoping it doesn’t mess up any currently saved games (or in the worse case, the console itself). Another issue, is trying to charge extra for content already on the game DVD. it’s there, you get to pay to unlock it. What a deal. And of course you have the Madden syndrome. This is where companies shove a game out on a yearly basis with little or no improvement.
The joke is you are paying 60$ for a roster update. That’s not even taking into account that the game is still missing features from the previous generation’s games. These were just a few specific examples. They are far from the only offenders with these issues. As the companies push and push to chase after the all-mighty dollar, quality is going to steadily drop. While there are a few gems out there, the rate of bad games to good is widening. with 300-400 dollar consoles, $50-60 dollar games, or in the case of the pc, new hardware every two years, a mistake in your purchase can cost you a bundle. Choose wisely.