Failed Game Launches and The Patch Mentality
As the years go by, game studios have made their fair share of bad games, but none in the past can be fixed like games of today. Now, if you have a failed launch, you can simply try to patch out the issues and update the game with better content. Both Destiny games had this issue, as their launches were fairly mediocre, and yet they were both revitalized post-release with updates and Downloadable Content. So, an issue can arise from the environment these developers and the games they release find themselves in. What’s the consequence to a bad game release if you still get the sales you need in the long run?
Well, it’s something that you have to look at each developer for to know for sure. Bethesda has a long history of making buggy games due to their size and ambition. However, they also released Fallout 76 not so long ago and that was met with very poor reception. The game had basically nothing in it and it was breaking a lot of the time. Features the player base thought should have been there since launch were missing. By all accounts, it was a failure. To that effect, it still is. The game has gotten a more steady base with time as they’ve added new content, but they’ve since gotten ridicule for charging extra for features that should have come in the form of free updates. Even the collector’s edition was panned because of the bags they included being of a very cheap material. The Fallout series has never had this many issues over its lifespan and Bethesda isn’t handling any of it well, even with their PR team. Because of their problems, there have been plenty of people that won’t support them in the future. That being said, Bethesda isn’t going to go bankrupt anytime soon. They still have a lot of fans willing to play their games despite their issues. So, essentially, all they did was lose some money and can bounce back with releases like Doom: Eternal and whenever the next Elder Scrolls releases.
Bethesda isn’t the only company to have this issue, though. BioWare and as an extension, EA, took a huge loss with the release of Anthem. The game, like Fallout 76, had nothing in it to do really, and even the loot system was bare-bones and not worth the time put into the game. The gameplay was solid and they did have a roadmap to improve the game, but even that fell to the wayside when things kept getting delayed. Since those first few months, BioWare has been working to improve the game by fixing the loot system, expanding the quests available, and offering more in general to its player base. It’s increased astronomically and has the most players its ever had since its failed launch. However, it still has a long way to go. BioWare says that a 2.0 update will release soon and that will bring even more content and fixes to the game. Their dedication is appreciated by their fans and they haven’t charged for the additions they’ve added. This mentality is better for the longevity of the game and can help mend the bad taste for BioWare that fans got after the game failed initially.
Another strategy is that of the aforementioned Destiny series of games. Both the first and second were met with mediocre reviews upon launch due to a lack of content. In the context of Destiny 2, the base game has now gone free-to-play, with the DLC being a choice that players can pay for. It was a strategy that worked and after the first major DLC with Forsaken, the game was revitalized, just like how The Taken King in the first game helped rejuvenate it. I believe that Destiny 2’s strategy of changing to a free-to-play platform was a smarter choice, as paying extra for more content after the fact is less painful when you haven’t spent anything on a game before then. Like it or not, Bungie was able to pull interest back into their series not once, but twice, and that’s an impressive feat. They are good to their fans and have a lot of in-game events to keep players going, including the Crucible, a PvP game mode for more competitive players. Destiny was the first MMO that I really got attached to and I still think it’s one of the best to date. Bungie knows what they’re doing, even if their release timing still needs work.
So, what have we gathered from this? Well, first off, this mentality mostly happens with online games and it seems to work decently for most involved. Despite the changes to each game I mentioned, they didn’t make everyone happy. That’s perfectly fine, too. That only matters for companies when it really hurts them financially. In the case of Anthem and Fallout 76 that was true, but Destiny hasn’t lost Bungie any money. I’d say the importance is how these post-launch fixes are handled. Big budget games are hard to produce and a lot of people on those development teams can be worked to death, so it’s not surprising that mistakes happen and I think each game deserves a second chance at life if it has passion behind it. Bethesda is an example of how not to do this, as their mentality is just to make as much money back as possible through subscriptions and microtransactions. Morale of the story: don’t be Bethesda.