When we buy a product and it suffers from the slightest defect, we report it and demand either a replacement or a refund. When a product does not deliver the minimum level of quality expected, we feel "cheated" and swear that we will not do it again.
But when we buy a video game and it is deficient, we tend to see it as part of what a player has to endure. We find it "normal" to update a newly released game with a patch of several gigabytes. We find it "normal" that bugs or performance drops taint our playing experience. And maybe worse, we find "normal" that a game offers unbearable peaks of difficulty, that the player drowns in an over-complex user-interface or does not know what to do and where to go in a huge game.
In short, we tolerate what we do not accept with non-gaming products.
But maybe things are changing.
CD Projekt Red is having a bitter experience with its triple-A Cyberpunk 2077 game. The launch of this highly anticipated title has been seriously marred by too many bugs and its inability to function properly on the latest generation consoles. in contradiction with what had been promised. It has grown to such an extent that Sony and Microsoft are reimbursing digital versions of the game, that the title has even been removed from the Playstation Store, and Microsoft is posting a warning about the game's performance on the Cyberpunk 2077 page of its digital store.
And there is worse; one of the shareholders of CD Projekt Red, Mikolaj Orzechowski, is reportedly studying the possibility of taking legal action against the company.
This failed launch is really damaging because the game has undeniable qualities; I will come back to this shortly in a publication devoted to the growing weight of storytelling in games.
What lessons should we learn from this
Publishers tend to invest in very large productions, some of which are intended to encourage players to invest in them for years; I am referring to "live" games, those games that seek to implement a "Game As a Service" type architecture. Such games must offer very good levels of finish because of the investments made but also the need to seduce and then keep the players as long as possible.
But this also applies to smaller productions such as indie games found on Steam, GOG, or the Epic Store. This culture of quality is not always present because the search for innovation and ambition tend to take precedence over the final quality of the product.
Today, the players, our customers, support these shortcomings less and less and it is the middlemen, the digital distributors who are banging their fists on the table. For all games, big and small, quality control must become an essential link in the production pipeline, not a simple “end of the line” service.
This has two consequences:
First, the development, in studios, of quality control structures that have the means, the know-how but also enough authority in production to push the teams to prioritize quality over the scope of the game, its size. Ubisoft is a good example; It is perhaps the only publisher in the world capable of editing very large games at a high frequency while delivering an excellent level of quality. It is not a coincidence; this editor has established a real culture of quality control.
Then, it's also the understanding that the quality of a game is not limited to technical considerations like the absence of bugs, accidental crashes, and good framerate. The quality of a game covers also its onboarding, its gameplay, its storytelling. Today, many publishers and developers have understood this by investing in playtests, by recruiting UX designers (see my previous post), and by calling on specialized consultants to audit their productions.
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UX designer or game designer: Which one do you need? FEATURED POST
Creative director & game designer, freelance
25+ years of experience serving studios and publishers