How should game companies be held accountable for missing release deadlines? An interesting question, and one that has been discussed at length in the comment sections of many of our articles, most recently regarding the delay for Dying Light 2.
Originally planned for release in Spring 2020, the complete radio silence surrounding Dying Light 2 gave little hope. And then, at the beginning of this week, there was an announcement the game was being delayed to an undisclosed date.
Dying Light 2 isn’t the only game to have been delayed recently; CD Projekt Red made waves by delaying Cyberpunk 2077 until late this year and even before then Nintendo announced late last year Animal Crossing was to be delayed. Delays are an inevitable part of the video game cycle, but should anything be done to help reduce the sheer number of delays?
One such idea presented in our comments section was to fine companies due to false advertising. If a publisher announces a game is to be released on one date, and then later pushes the date back, does this qualify as false advertising? The key thing when thinking of this is intent. Did the publisher announce a release date knowing full well that it wasn’t going to hit it? Or, has it fallen behind schedule and so delayed the game out of necessity? The difference is paramount in deciding whether or not the game has been falsely advertised. If a developer were to be fine for delaying a game, you can safely bet we’d have even more buggy launches.
When delaying their games, publishers are already in a tough predicament. Delaying a game will increase the maintenance costs on their end - they’ll need to continue paying staff (and paying overtime if necessary), paying to continue work on the game and even basic office costs, all with a delayed payout until the release of the game. If they don’t delay the game, then similarly, they face repercussions, just look at Anthem for example: The game was released in an early, unfinished state, got absolutely ripped into by the gaming community and has been attempting to rebuild itself ever since.
It’s a tough situation to be in, especially with how hype culture works - Cyberpunk 2077, for example, has been riding the hype train even before Keanu Reeves blessed us with his presence at E3, and the announcement of the delay has sent ripples into the growing fan base.
There is no clear and definitive answer to what or if anything should be done regarding the delaying of video games. People are all too quick to criticise early access as a platform, but it is a way for game developers to give people a game, and also improve upon it once released - allowing them to edit and improve a game post-launch, reducing the need to delay and keeping players happy and content.
I’m not saying early access is something that should be adopted by every game company out there, but it certainly does offer a solution to delays, and the resulting disappointment seen in fans.
What do you think? Are there any other ways for delays to be avoided? And should we hold publishers more accountable for the release dates they advertise?