Starcraft II, Diablo III, Gran Turismo 5, Final Fantasy XIII – what do all these games have in common? I feel the development and/or release of these game have taken way too long. Now, before you jump to conclusions about what I just said, let’s clear something up – I’m not a fanboy; I don’t feel they’ve taken too long because I want the game now and nothing later than now will suffice. No, I feel games like these take more time than is really needed in development or in the release process. Let me tell you a little story.
Once upon a time in videogameland there was a game called Trine, a little downloadable title you might remember from last year. After watching video after video and closely following the news surrounding the game, I was really looking forward to it. I knew the game was primarily a PC title; however, even before it was released initially on that platform, the developer said they fully intended it to be released on the PSN as well. It would be my personal preference to play it on a console instead of a PC, so I waited. The PC version came out, and I still waited. The game got delayed and delayed again on the PSN. Finally, it was released on the PSN… over three and a half months later. I didn’t buy it – I still haven’t.
What happened? The game took too long to release on my preferred console. It took so long that I just didn’t care anymore. Not to mention that when it finally came out on the PSN (near the end of October), it did so among a slew of AAA titles I planned to purchase and play. That didn’t help things at all, really. What about now? Again, too many other things to play and do. I nearly forget that Trine is even available on the PSN unless someone reminds me or I happen to see it while browsing the PS Store.
So, let me submit a theory. To start with, while developers may claim that a game takes [insert time frame here] to develop and, if it isn’t done in that time frame, they claim they are “polishing” the title or feel it needs more “development time”, I don’t believe that is the case the majority of the time. Games like Gran Turismo 5 have been in development for who knows how long, and that game in particular has had its release pushed back again and again to the point that I personally don’t care anymore. Final Fantasy XIII was in development for five years and I think it was way too overhyped and, to some degree, the hype started to fade away for me before I even purchased it. I waited five years for this? Why can excellent productions like God of War 3 take only two or three years to develop and release, while other titles that have arguably the same production values take twice that or more? Do certain developers think they are hot snot because they’re taking longer and “polishing” a game longer than others?
My theory also holds that the hype machine works both ways. Certain companies thrive on this hype surrounding their games and I’m going to call one of them out right now – Blizzard Entertainment. They release very few games compared to other developers, their games take the better part of forever to develop and then they release them and sell more copies than most other developers out there. But, what happens when a game takes so long in development that no one cares about it anymore? Could this hype machine backfire on Blizzard with titles such as Starcraft II and Diablo III? Quite possibly. Of course, you always have your hardest of hardcore fans that are going to wait until they are holding in their dying breath just to play a new game from their favorite developer or franchise. Much more likely, however, there is a sizable number of people who are interested in the game – possibly very interested – but don’t have the devotion to the developer or franchise that the relatively small group of hardcore have. This is the group that, if they’re not careful, will start forgetting about a title if it takes too long.