Hype is commonplace in the gaming industry and usually comes around when the release of a game has been mentioned. However, as any long-time or even relatively new gamer will tell you, it release dates are not to be trusted under any circumstances. Only the most massive of titles are capable of making that wondrously preordained date of release, while for every other title it is merely an assumption of things to come. Delays, push backs and everything else under the sun is common in the industry and all stems from game development. For those looking forward to the next big release, here’s a few things you should consider.
Most release dates are based on contracts that are signed in advance. Developers that are not in-house work off of a contractural agreement that puts certain milestones in place and the assumption is that the developer is capable of moving along a certain timeline, which allows the publisher to advertise for the game. Many advertisement campaigns have been centralized around a game’s release date, such as Mortal Kombat. If a developer fails to meet the deadline everything is thrown into a rutt. Understanding that a release date is sometimes based on business rather than development schedule ups and downs is key to avoiding disappointment with a particular title that you’ve been waiting for. Don’t mark your calendar in permanent marker just yet.
That niche game you’ve been waiting for can be canceled in preference for a more assuring title. It has happened before and the odds are it will end up happening again in our gaming lifetimes. The best thing to do is not get too attached to a title that isn’t as widely anticipated as say a God of War or Halo sequel. Members of a development team can be plucked from one title and put on another in order to speed up the development process as well, which usually ends up hurting smaller title that don’t have much credibility to back them. The bottom line is that the gaming industry is a business and unless that business sees a reason to take a change on a smaller title, it won’t.
Competition has a habit of influencing release dates. Even though most publishers probably won’t admit it, a small RPG probably doesn’t want to come out on the exact same day the latest Final Fantasy is released. The same goes for nearly every other genre in gaming, the bigger releases of established series can sometimes deter small publishers from releasing their title. The same is seen in the music industry, in which the release of a particular musician’s CD pushes back the release of several others. In an industry where the product is usually three or four times the cost of a CD, it is even more likely to be an influence.
Release dates are not definite. No matter who says, no matter what the title, always be prepared for the game to be released at a later or earlier date. It’s just how the business works. With games becoming more and more time consuming to create, it’s only a matter of time before big releases begin to feel the pressure having to be finished on time at the level that smaller developers feel. Crunch time will always rear its ugly head and influence the release of a game.