WITH three AAA games on shelves now – Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, The Outer Worlds and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and three more (Death Stranding, Need For Speed: Heat and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order), about to drop you might have missed the news that a few AAA titles scheduled for early next year have had their release dates slip.
Bethesda, Sony and Ubisoft have all recently announced that anticipated AAA titles from them will be coming out later than expected.
Bethesda announced Doom Eternal – supposed to release on November 22 – would now come out on March 20, 2020, Sony have pushed back The Last of Us II to May 2020 and Ghost of Tsushima to sometime next year, and Ubisoft have said Watch Dogs Legion, Gods & Monsters and Rainbow Six: Quarantine will all now release in the 2020-2021 financial year instead of in the first half of 2020.
Furthermore, Paradox’s anticipated Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 has recently slipped from a Q1 2020 release to sometime later that year.
For most of the release changes, the reason given was essentially to give the development teams more time to make a better game, typified by this official announcement regarding Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2’s new release date, which said: “Over the last few months, it has become clear to Paradox Interactive and Hardsuit Labs that hitting the original launch time frame of Q1 2020 would risk shipping a game that does not meet the ambitions that developer and publisher share. This decision has been made to ensure that Paradox and Harsuit deliver the best Bloodlines 2 experience possible.”
In Ubisoft’s case, the company has confirmed the poor reception for Ghost Recon Breakpoint was a significant factor in delaying the other three games it has on the way.
Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot was upfront about the poor critical reception of Breakpoint – it has been shredded by critics and fans alike, with a Metacritic rating of 58 per cent for the PC version at time of writing – and pledged to keep working on the game to give players a better experience.
“For Ghost Recon Breakpoint, while the game’s quality appeared on track – based on E3, Gamescom, previews and our latest internal playtests – critical reception and sales during the game’s first weeks were very disappointing,” he said.
“As we have done with past titles, we will continue to support the game and listen to the community in order to deliver the necessary improvements”
Mr Guillemot said there were three reasons why Breakpoint hadn’t done as well as they were expecting, all of which had ramifications for the release schedules of the company’s forthcoming AAA games.
“First, it is harder to generate interest for a sequel to a Live multiplayer game, when prior iterations benefited from years of optimization. Consequently, we need to make sure there is more time between each iteration of Live games,” he said.
“Second, our strategy of introducing gameplay innovations in our games has had a very positive impact on our brands. However, to win over players, these innovations need to be perfectly implemented in order to offer an optimal experience. This has not yet been sufficiently the case with Ghost Recon: Breakpoint. While the change of formula has been very well received by some players, with an average daily playtime per player of over three hours, it also has been strongly rejected by a significant portion of the community.
“Finally, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint did not come in with enough differentiation factors, which prevented the game’s intrinsic qualities from standing out. We are tackling these issues head-on and already are implementing significant changes to our production processes.”
Mr Guillemot said in the context of the poor reception and performance of Breakpoint was why “we have decided to postpone the releases of Gods & Monsters, Rainbow Six Quarantine and Watch Dogs Legion until 2020-21”.
“While each of these games already has a strong identity and high potential, we want our teams to have more development time to ensure that their respective innovations are perfectly implemented so as to deliver optimal experiences for players.”
Regardless of which delayed title you might be hanging out for, while it’s tempting to say “But I want my games nooooooow”, the reality is development teams are already working hard and under a lot of pressure to make a game – which is a time consuming process that takes literal years.
I’ve interviewed a lot of people from countless game development teams over the years, and regardless of publisher, game genre, or their role in the team, they’ve all been passionate about what they’re doing and determined to make the best game possible.
No-one sets out to make a crap game (except as some sort of ironic joke, perhaps), and at the AAA level there are big, big dollars at stake with each major release – so not only is there an artistic incentive to get it right, there’s the black-and-white-spreadsheets and ‘awkward questions from shareholders’ angles too.
Purely from a “Wanting the people who make the products I enjoy to be properly looked after” perspective, more time for teams to make a AAA game is an excellent thing. More time to polish, more time to make sure things work properly, and less crunch, meaning the people making the games get to spend more time with the families and friends and generally have a good work/life balance too.
Delayed releases aren’t a sign of troubled development anymore, and haven’t been for a while – and in the meantime, there’s plenty of really, really good games out there to play while you wait.
After all, as legendary Nintendo game designer Shigeru Miyamoto famously said, “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”