It was the legendary Shingeru Miyamoto who famously said “A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.” While this is not always true (I’m looking at you Duke Nukem Forever) we can understand the general principal of this statement. There has always been a divide between the video game companies and their fans, primarily when it comes to communication. The former are not always the best at engaging the general public and when they do it comes across as too “corporate” for the average fan. This is the sort of situation which lead fans to have a negative impression on a specific company, seeing them as a faceless entity out for money rather than a collaboration of like-minded people with different backgrounds and beliefs creating a video game.
Fans don’t always think of the larger corporations and the development teams under them as two separate things so when a video game is delayed, it is generally met with anger and skepticism. It’s not their fault really, you can’t blame a fan base for not trusting a company who aren’t openly honest about their product and the situation surrounding it.
During the last few years however, we are starting to witness a change in mentality. Fans are either starting to have a more positive view of the larger corporations or more likely, are more knowledgeable about the structure of said company, can differentiate between the corporate entity and the development team and are seemingly more forgiving when it comes to delays. A prime example of this is the much anticipated The Last of us Part II which was recently delayed from February 2020 to May 2020. If you read the comments accompanying the embedded tweet you can see the overwhelmingly sympathetic reaction to this. With the majority of fans telling the development team to “take as long as needed”, a stark contrast to the likes of Diablo III which announced its delay back in 2012 to much community criticism.
Naughty Dogs statement does seem sincere, and talks directly to their audience, devoid of any corporate ‘lingo’ and written in a clear cut way of “we have to delay the game and this is why”. This has proven to work well when addressing the community and the sympathetic response from said community only strengthens that idea. Of course, it’s easy to point this out when the company in question is one of the most beloved developers in the world, but what about the larger corporations? Have they learned from the past issues with fan backlash?
The answer is yes…well maybe, at least some are starting too. Let’s have a look at a recent example of this. In Ubisoft’s latest press release they announced delays to numerous big budget titles currently in development. If you haven’t read the press release I suggest checking it out. Its eye opening how honest it is and refreshing to see such a large corporation taking this open approach with its community. Its less “our games are great and this is what’s coming” and more “we f-ed up, and this is how we’re going to fix it”. If more companies pulled back the curtain slightly to its community and had a more honest approach about itself fans would start to sympathise a lot more with them.
Being honest never hurt anyone, not in the long run anyway, and especially when it comes to the video game industry. Corporations need to stop pulling down the shades with the development of its games, sure, tell us when things are delayed but also tell us why. Don’t look at the community as ‘investors’ or ‘shareholders’, we are a bunch of passionate nerds who don’t appreciate any corporate BS. Can you imagine how different EA’s image would seem to the community today if they had just been honest that they made a mistake about Battlefront II and Anthem?
Corporations don’t have to be 100% transparent, that would be foolish for any company, but a little bit of honestly goes along way. I think they are starting to see that putting their fingers in their ears and trying to drown out community backlash just isn’t going to work in the modern age of ‘always connected’, and this is unmistakably for the better.