Game On: Better a great game late, than a lousy game on time
Watch Dogs game on

Following high-profile delays to Watch Dogs and now The Witcher 3, gaming enthusiast Mark Butler argues that he’d much rather sink into an incredible experience a year from now, than endure an average one tomorrow.

Watch Dogs game on
[Forever delayed? The ambitious world of Watch Dogs]

Yesterday, acclaimed Polish developer CD Projekt announced that their ambitious, open-world RPG sequel Witcher 3 – undoubtedly one of the most anticipated games of 2014 – has now been pushed back to February next year.

Obviously, the news has disappointed many. Myself included.

CD Projekt’s fantasy epics have deservedly acquired a loyal and sizable fanbase thanks to their immersive storytelling, gritty gameworld and intense action, and the thought of guiding Geralt Of Rivia through an evocative landscape even grander in scale than Skyrim is an appetite-whetting one to say the least.

Now we won’t get to sink ourselves into the saga for almost a whole year, and the news is particularly galling for next-gen console owners – who have seen one of their most high-profile upcoming titles wiped off the 2014 release schedule.

Of course, significant delays are a common thing in the world of games development. And it’s not like we’ve been short of prominent recent examples.

Ubisoft’s exciting techno-thriller Watch Dogs was pulled from release just four weeks before it was set to hit shelves last year. The move stunned those who had pre-ordered the title; not least gamers who had it lined up in a launch bundle for the PS4 or Xbox One.

Watch Dogs will apparently finally land in May, but that hasn’t been much of a comfort to some, who would claim that such last-minute postponements are a betrayal of trust between company and consumer.

I, however, tend to take the view that Ubisoft’s decision was a mightily brave one. And CD Projekt’s for that matter too.

In an industry that has seen so many rushed-out, cynical, half-finished releases in recent memory, I find it thoroughly refreshing that major Triple-A companies are beginning to put quality control and gamer satisfaction above the thirst for a quick buck.

How many times have we seen glitchy, bug-ridden, unfit-for-purpose piles of crap heaped upon us at launch? How many times have we sat down to enjoy an eagerly-anticipated new title, only to rapidly feel our hearts sink as we realise that its mechanics, design and performance have not been properly play-tested and ironed-out? There’s a reason why movie tie-ins – typically rolled-out to ultra-tight deadlines with no room for manoeuvre – are frequently so appalling.

It would be so easy for Ubisoft and CD Projekt to wheel out their big-hitters before they were actually worthy of release, and simply sit back and watch the money roll in despite the disappointing reception and lower-than-expected reviews. Just as so many others have done.

Anticipation for both Watch Dogs and Witcher 3 is so high that countless people would probably rush out and buy the games before the negative backlash even began, ensuring a healthy influx of cash for a product that really wasn’t ready to hit the shelves.

But both companies clearly have higher standards than that. Both have worked hard to ensure a generally high benchmark of quality in recent years, and they appear to understand that long-term reputation and fanbase satisfaction is far more important than short-term gains.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have a mind-blowing experience six months down the line, than a mediocre one today. When Ken Levine noted that BioShock Infinite was being put back so that “the great could be made greater”, it turned out he really wasn’t lying. The game may have had a mammoth development time but – whatever the subsequent, sad shuttering of Irrational – it ended up being all the better for it.

Deferred gratification can be a hell of a thing. In the case of Watch Dogs and Witcher 3, my disappointment at their delay is mitigated by my confidence that they are more likely to live up to the hype – and that the developers and publishers clearly have their priorities straight.

Speaking to Eurogamer at a preview event in Montreal, Watch Dogs creative director Jonathan Morin mused:

“It’s about delivering on expectations. A complicated game that is broken is no more acceptable than an easier one that works.”

Meanwhile, CD Projekt have summed-up their own stance in a beautifully-judged statement to Witcher fans:

“We could have released the game towards the end of this year as we had initially planned. Yet we concluded that a few additional months will let us achieve the quality gamers expect from us.”

Right on. I’ve got plenty of cool new releases to tide me over until then anyway. And if Geralt’s last hurrah is all the better for the extra time taken to sharpen it up – I’ll be infinitely more happy than if it had been bang on schedule and fallen short of the mark.

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Mark Butler

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