I’m sorry, I apologise for the delay in the writing of this piece, as it was approaching completion, I realised that it required more time for improvement before I could let it loose, and I didn’t wish to compromise the reading experience in any way.
There’s Trouble Brewing at Playstation
There’s a problem brewing under the surface at Playstation, that problem carries the name of ‘punctuality’. The PS4 is (by some distance) the most successful console of this generation despite being carried by 3rd party releases that have launched on both it and its competitor, the Xbox One. First party pickings have been quite slim, and many have been delayed multiple times, some of the most notable cases in point being The Order 1886, Uncharted 4 and most recently Gran Turismo Sport.
Of course, Sony is not the only company to have had problems hitting release dates, every company has had them, both big and small, whilst there are also the cases Final Fantasy XV and Duke Nukem Forever, both games taking the better part of a decade to launch. Even in these more extreme scenarios though, Sony has a game with an equally troubled, long lasting development. It goes by the name “The Last Guardian”.
There’s a pretty familiar pattern that is emerging in the lead up to a Playstation exclusive game releasing, especially a game that might be considered a marquee attraction. Firstly the grand unveiling, along with a vague release window, perhaps a year, we saw this in the cases of Horizon: Zero Dawn recently. Next, a major event arises (for example E3 or PSX) and a release date is specified, such as what occurred in the case of GT Sport. Finally, as is the case for many of Playstation’s releases, from The Last of Us, Uncharted 4 and GT Sport, only a handful of months before the game was intended for release, it’s delayed a few months further. More often than not, the cited reason for the delay being that the studio needs to apply a bit more polish to bring the game to a standard that the studio initially aspired to.
Shigeru Miyamoto’s famous “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad” is, of course, applicable in any of these cases, and both The Last of Us and Uncharted have proven to be games that have benefitted enormously from the extra time. There’s also no doubt that the studios, whether it is Naughty Dog, Polyphony Digital or any other internal studio are making the right call to delay the game to improve it further. What these delays perhaps show is that the studio (or most likely Sony) are a little too eager to attach a release date to the game without being sure it will actually hit that date.
While Sony, just like every other publisher have shareholders to appease, and this may prompt them to drop a release date, they need to be 100% sure that the date is guaranteed. What they could potentially explore is the wonderfully executed Bethesda X Fallout 4 approach. Arguably 2015’s biggest game, despite being speculated about for years, Fallout 4 was unveiled less than six months before it was then released. It also seems that despite a little more exposure that we’re headed for a similar outcome with Mass Effect: Andromeda where we won’t see a release until EA and Bioware are sure that the game will hit the set date.
More publishers than just Playstation could take a leaf out of the books of both Bethesda and EA in this way, but in the case of the console manufacturer, they’ve had so many delays, so it makes it hard to justify the way they’re approaching release dates. They simply cannot afford to repeat this any further before the current soft rumbling and grumbling from fans becomes full blown negativity and hate in comments sections and on social media. A lot of promised release dates have been broken by Playstation at this stage, so it will be a worthwhile investment by Sony into exploring how and why they come to the release dates that they do, and make some smarter decisions going forward. Should the same teased (and ultimately changed) release dates play out with a game like the upcoming God of War, or a potential The Last of Us sequel, fans may riot.
So as this long anticipated, but frequently delayed piece finally approaches its conclusion it’s time to reflect. Things go wrong in many different industries, the games business is, of course, no exception, but it is how we reflect upon experiences and the lessons we learn from them that are most important. Sony needs to learn, and adapt their practice based on what has been going on in these past few years, before more consumers get frustrated and (potentially) move on. Here’s hoping they soon learn their lesson.