Monday, February 16, 2009

When will they learn?

Of the top 20 best-selling PC games of 2008, 5 were various versions of World of Warcraft, and 3 were version of the Sims 2. Another Blizzard game, the original Diablo, still made it on the list at rank 19, eleven years after release. We discussed yesterday how Blizzard kept up a stream of best-selling games by taking proven concepts and polishing them to perfection, while the competition often tried more innovative things, but implemented them badly.

Even one of the most-talked about PC games of 2008, GTA 4, came with tons of bugs, and wouldn't even run on many graphics cards. Especially MMOs are often released in a half-finished state, scare their early adopters away with lots of bugs, and then never recover from the initial bad publicity. When will the other makers of PC games, especially MMORPGs, learn to only release games "when they are done"?

There is obvious pressure from the business side to release games early. But even the dumbest business manager should have learned by now that releasing a game in a shoddy state is not a recipe for success. Especially in the age of the internet, forums, and blogs, all your marketing can't overcome bad word of mouth. If your first customers aren't happy with the state your game is in, you'll get less buyers overall. And in every other industry that is understood, you don't see the latest model of car delivered without windshield wipers or faulty lights, because there wasn't enough time to finish the product. Why is that still accepted practice in the video game industry? Blizzard is laughing all the way to the bank, having a near-monopoly on quality. Why does it take the competition so long to figure that simple business reality out?

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