Sony have struggled to get their major AAA first party releases out on time. Does this indicate an issue?
Sony have had a remarkable run this generation- their console leads the market by a vast and at this point unbridgable chasm, they’ve managed to address their traditional weakness in the gaming market, which was network and services, and turn it into a strength, they are commanding leading third party support, and they are generating a massive amount of revenue. For Sony, this generation has been great.
For us as gamers, too, the PS4 has been great. The console is easy to develop for, with very developer-friendly policies, which has invited scores of developers and games on to the machine, leading to more games to play, from all sorts of developers- indie and AAA, Japanese and western. Sony, meanwhile, have managed to put out some of the best games of the generation so far, too- Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Bloodborne are both arguably among the best exclusives so far this console cycle, and both are Sony games.
There’s really not a whole lot to hold against Sony this generation then, at least as far as video games, which are, after all, the primary purpose and reason for any gaming console existing in the first place, are considered. Not much at all, except for one thing that has become a repeated and troubling trend with Sony over the last few years- and that’s their propensity to delay their marquee first party titles, often repeatedly, over and over again. This generation alone, it has happened with inFamous: Second Son, DriveClub, The Order 1886, Bloodborne, Ratchet and Clank, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and most recently, Gran Turismo Sport. Something like this happening once or twice makes sense- game development is, after all, a tricky business, with a whole lot of moving parts, and an obscene amount of computer code to keep track of. Plans can change, new features can be added, old one removed, or it can be discovered that the game is simply not functioning as intended. Delays in this context makes sense. Every publisher has had a few of their games delayed this generation, and delays almost always benefit a game. We can’t necessarily blame a publisher for giving their developers more time, if more time is what is needed to ensure a game comes out okay.
"When every major Sony game this generation has been delayed at least once, and sometimes for as long as a full year, then you need to ask yourself why Sony aren’t learning to not announce their games so far out from completion already."
We can, however, question the wisdom of the publisher announcing their games so far out in advance- especially when, after a few delays, it has become clear that there is a trend of all their announced games slipping from their scheduled dates. When every major Sony game this generation has been delayed at least once, and sometimes for as long as a full year, then you need to ask yourself why Sony aren’t learning to not announce their games so far out from completion already.
This is especially a lesson that publishers like Bethesda, and of late, EA, have started to imbibe- they simply don’t announce their games until they are very close to release. Once the games are announced, they are announced with final shipping dates that they always hit. Bethesda have done this with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4, while EA have done this with Star Wars: Battlefront and Battlefield 1; it also looks like they do not plan on unveiling Mass Effect: Andromeda until it is very close to completion, and therefore, release.
That’s actually the best way to do it- in an era where Apple announce an iPhone, and then release it just weeks later, extended hype cycles no longer make much sense. Consumers are bombarded by new products, and new media competing for their attention at all times- if something is announced too early, or is taking too long to come out, they lose interest in that product, and move on. Sony definitely understand this- they’re adopting the same strategy with their upcoming PlayStation 4 NEO, after all.
So why not do it for their games as well? You would think Sony would know better than to prematurely unveil and hype their games by now- after all, this isn’t even new for them. Prior to this generation, games such as Gran Turismo 5, Final Fantasy Versus 13, Agent, and most famously, The Last Guardian, all suffered years of delays before being released- and in some cases, they were never released at all. And yet this continues to remain a problem.
"Sony, who are probably among the best publishers in the world right now for game development, will always give their developers more time when they need it – but all delays will be internal instead of public, who shall remain blissfully unaware of the game’s very existence until it is time for the game to actually be out."
I think this comes down to a different, larger issue that I pointed out earlier this year around E3– Sony has a tendency to announce things way before time. In an effort to please their audience and ‘win’ with them, they announce cool looking games that are very early in development and obviously nowhere near release. Then, those games either take years to come out, or they end up missing the release dates that were set for them- in both cases, there is discontent generated.
The simple solution would of course be to simply hold off on announcing games until they are actually near release- announce them with firm release dates that are just a few months away, and then ship them. In this case, there can still be delays in game development – and Sony, who are probably among the best publishers in the world right now for game development, will always give their developers more time when they need it – but all delays will be internal instead of public, who shall remain blissfully unaware of the game’s very existence until it is time for the game to actually be out.
"It’s a minor quibble in the end, though- even if Sony games are delayed, they are great, almost without exception."
That is really all that I’m asking for, here. I have no issues with Sony’s games- Knack, Killzone, and The Order were pretty bad, but Ratchet and Clank was stellar, DriveClub became great over time, and Bloodborne and Uncharted 4 are, as I said, among the best games of the generation. The delays obviously did them good in the end. So my problem here isn’t that Sony delay games- it’s that Sony announce games far before they are ready to be announced. After literally every single major game from them having been delayed, you would think that they’d have caught on.Winning E3 every year is all well and good, Sony- but it’s probably better still if not all your games miss their intended release dates.
It’s a minor quibble in the end, though- even if Sony games are delayed, they are great, almost without exception. In such a case, I’m willing to put up with delays to play them- in fact, the delays bothering me so much is, more than anything else, a testament to just how great Sony’s games really are. I just can’t seem to wait to actually get my hands on them.
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