In the past 3-5 years, there has been an increase in the amount of games that, on launch day, are considered “broken” by much of the gaming community. “Broken” doesn’t mean necessarily that the game doesn’t work (though that has happened in the past for certain operating systems such as Mac or Linux), but more often means that the game is so littered with bugs and glitches that it becomes an impediment to actually playing the game.
The most infamous title for this category would most likely be Batman: Arkham Knight. Released on June 23, 2015, the Windows version of the game was so terribly optimized and buggy that Warner Bros, the publisher, actually pulled it from the website and Steam, the largest online retailer of games in the world. The game did eventually return about a month later, but the damage had already been done to it’s sales and reputation, which put Warner Bros. in a bad spot for their next Windows release.
Most recently, Firaxis released XCOM 2 for Windows to a large amount of backlash revolving around the inconsistent frame rates and accounts of the game simply stalling for a minute or so before resuming. While these are not game-breaking, the game was only released on Windows and therefore every player suffers these bugs. It is often much simpler to optimize games for consoles such as the Xbox One and Playstation 4 because of the uniformity, in that every single console of the same name has the same specifications. When it comes to Windows or Mac however, the specifications often differ greatly depending on things such as system memory, graphics cards, and processors.
The question most people have is why are games being released in such a ” broken” state? Are these games simply pushed forward so much by publishers that the developer didn’t have enough time to work out all the bugs? Is the developer simply lazy and doesn’t wish to delay their game? Do developers and publishers now realize that consumers will purchase these products anyway, despite all the backlash, and know that everybody that pre-ordered the game is already a guaranteed buy? Despite the massive failings of Batman: Arkham Knight, it still became the highest selling Batman game in Warner Bros. history, and XCOM 2 is also selling better and has been, more often than not, more favorably reviewed than the first in the series due to the amount of content that has been added since XCOM 1.
It seems as if the gaming community has a vocal minority when it comes to boycotting pre-orders and complaining about the state of PC games, while many console gamers, which make up the majority of the gaming community, seem to complain at a much lower rate. Indeed, it seems as if developers are more okay with simply releasing a buggy game and then patching it later, simply because the PC players have learned to put up with these practices. However, this sets a dangerous precedent, a very slippery slope. How far can it get before even console gamers can stand and say that this isn’t acceptable? Will it take an Xbox One game to release and be almost utterly unplayable before more people voice their opinion? I’m not sure, but I do know that developers need to be more accountable for their products on day 1.