The Gollum Game creates outrage.
With the release of, and subsequent apology for their newest game ‘The Lord Of The Rings: Gollum’ – developer Daedalic Entertainment have once again left gamers with the familiar feeling of, “Why on Earth did I buy this game?”
How it was
Back in the day, the life cycle of a game was fairly simple and straightforward. The developers came up with an idea, developed it into a game, tested the game and then released a finished, final product for consumers. No DLC, no update patches. If the game had bugs then the game had bugs. There was no expectation for the company to fix the bugs because the expectation was that whatever you purchased had already gone through countless hours of in-house testing. In fact, “Video Game Tester” was the dream job for any kid or teenager growing up. I know it was for me.
Over time, and with the rise of the internet, companies began to phase out in-house testing, opting instead to offer friends and family members, sometimes even community members the opportunity to test games that were currently still in the alpha and beta stages of development. In addition to in-house teams, the additional feedback from thousands of other players would surely result in a polished, final product. Or one would hope so. And in the event of a rare bug on release, the game would be patched and the bug fixed. This sounds great on paper, but in practice an entirely different issue emerged.
“Friends and Family” now includes Fans
Friends and family alpha testing and beta testing had become popular. Not because people love reporting bugs but because it gave eager gamers a chance to play their favorite games before being released to the general public. Companies immediately picked up on this and so the rise of “Early Access” games began. Early Access games were and still are games unfinished games that consumers can choose to purchase and play while they are still in development. This is another idea that sounds good on paper until developers realized that they could keep a game in development forever while collecting money from eager fans. This eliminated the need for testing, because the sale had already been made. Heck, depending on who you ask, this all but eliminated the need to actually still work on the game you already sold. Unfortunately this easy-money hack seemed to be limited to smaller indie companies under the guise of “needing funds to fuel development.” Big AAA studios lacked such an excuse! Or did they?
The evolution of the pre-order
Pre-ordering games is a tale as old as time and is one that predates the rise of Early Access. The idea behind pre-ordering games is simple: you reserve your copy of the game early so that you don’t have to wait in line the day it is released thereby avoiding the risk of not getting the game until whenever the next shipment arrived at the store. The concept is great and theoretically works in every party’s favor: The publisher knows how many copies of the game need to be made, the store wins because it has the stock to ensure everyone gets a copy and therefore they get every potential sale without the fear of overstocking and gamers win because they get the game. This was all find and dandy until the rise of the digital download. Now there was no concrete reasoning behind pre-ordering a game: the internet provided unlimited copies. For a while there was a balance where gamers could still pre-order a game and get extra goodies as well as a physical copy of the game. Maybe they got a collectors box or some other sort of doodad for opting to pre-order the game.
Unfortunately this balance didn’t last long, as developers and publishers realized the same lesson from Early Access games: You don’t need to provide a quality product if you already have the money. It was simple, just release whatever you have and, if there is a big enough uproar you just patch it. Even worse, just release half of the game and offer the other parts as paid DLC. Cash out twice!
And that brings us to where we are today. For over a decade gamers have been arguing among themselves about the merits of waiting for a full game to be released and reviewed before spending any money. “Make the companies earn your money” becoming a familiar cry among disenfranchised gamers. If you’re tired of excuses and apologies, don’t buy the game! For some the action is simple but as we can see, there are far more gamers willing to fork over their hard earned cash at a gamble, hoping that maybe this time wont be like the last or this company wont be like the last but AAA flops such as Star Wars: Jedi Survivor, Redfall, Gollum and Forspoken to name a few, the practice seems to be just as rampant as ever any not going away any time soon.