— Rockstar Games (@RockstarGames) May 22, 2017
I’m sure some of you saw this tweet and were bummed out, like me, over not being able to play Red Redemption 2 this fall. It’s always sucks when a game company offers an initial time frame and then has to go back on that time for whatever reason. As gamers we hope that it’s because the publisher wants the game to be the best it can be before releasing. On the other hand it could be a disastrous production and a lot of changes need to be made for the game is street ready.
Whenever a release date gets pushed it always begs the question “Do game release dates even matter?”
Many games face delays. It’s becoming a sad fact of life that is in some ways plaguing the gaming community. Should the publisher even bother giving a release date? This is tough. You want fans to have a day a game is being released so they can plan for it. Give yourself time to rollout promotional spots. Engage with press and social media influencers so that they can get the game early to put out reviews for your game. On the other hand, if you fail to hit that date you’ve set for yourself you suddenly become vilified as the publisher that can’t deliver? Speculation as to why the game isn’t out will fill up social media feeds, articles will be written with some “insider info” as to why the game didn’t come out.
I think there’s a solution. As a publisher I think no game release date should be announced until the game is fully finished and it is actually ready to go. You can still have a promotional campaign as you are working on the game. Images, trailers and demos can all still rollout with a plan as you prepare for launch day. This can all be done without giving a date. And finally once the game is finished you can pick a release date a month later if you want to generate more hype and then release it.
People get a sense of joy once a game has a date. It gives them(me included) something to look forward to. If the game didn’t have a release date I think people would be able to just enjoy that a game is coming out, at some point.
A release date could lead to trouble for a game. Let’s look at The Last Guardian. The game was developed by Team Ico starting way back in 2007. The game was announced for the first time in 2009 with an expected release date to be in 2011. If you don’t know, The Last Guardian didn’t come out until December 2016. So the publisher pushed the game back so many years and I don’t think The Last Guardian was able to survive the delayed production and release. The hype for the game lessened as the years went on and I feel like that game having a release date is what caused it’s problems. If you tell fans a game is coming out, at some point, they can accept that. The game will come out at some point and they will enjoy it when it does. If you pick a release date then push it back, fans will begin to worry. They will start to consider the possibility that the game they were excited for might be facing some serious flaws. If the fans lose confidence in a game then the path to recovery for the developer could be quite difficult.
So to answer the question: “Do game release dates even matter?” The answer is yes. But they only matter if a game is unable to hit that release date. When a developer is crushed with pressure to release and hit the date or if they fail to hit the date it’s only because the release date was set if the first place.