April 21, 2011 12:00 AM |
[“The Blue Key” is a bi-weekly GameSetWatch column from writer Connor Cleary. In this analysis column, he examines the potential negative impact of post-launch patches and buggy game releases. He also suggests that it might be time for the big budget companies to take a cue from an indie scene business model of beta-monetization.]
With the ubiquity of internet-connected consoles, developers can now patch bugs even after the game hits the shelves, which is a wonderful thing—in theory. But you may have noticed, as I have, that more and more companies seem to be treating their paying customers like beta testers. This is simply unacceptable, and it is bad business as well.
For a variety of reasons I will refrain from mentioning specific titles or companies, but I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who have felt duped after buying a brand new game at full price only to have it freeze their system at random and frequent intervals—among other things.
It begs the question: What do we, as gaming consumers, want? Do we want to pay full price for that new game now, even though it is a glitch-fest? Or would we prefer to wait for a delayed release so the company can polish it? Let's return to that question in a moment.
For now, consider this scenario: Company X repeatedly releases games that are notoriously buggy, glitchy, and/or freezey for the first few weeks of their lifespans, and Company X develops a reputation for it—I'm sure we can all think of a few of these.
As a result, Consumer Group A stops buying Company X's games at launch, preferring to wait a few weeks or months for the company to release a handful of patches. Consumer Group B on the other hand, who did buy the games at launch, get sick of dealing with bugs and freezing and trade in or sell the game back to the stores. (Not to mention the negative word-of-mouth and internet buzz generated by Group B whining to their friends and on the internet.)
So by the time Consumer Group A gets around to picking up the game, many of them are buying the game used. With the constant stream of high quality, must-play games coming out, it's easy to put off purchasing any given game until a more stable build is released.
Categories: Column: The Blue Key