Article reference: Lack of GTA visibility putting off Take-Two investors
So the first part of this article is all about the lack of visibility that investors have into the creation process. They (investors) don't know what's going on with the project, so they get nervous.
But, the part of the article that really got my attention is the last paragraph, where Michael Pachter is quoted as saying:
"We perceive the problem to be an overly ambitious development schedule, with high expectations and high quality standards leading to inevitable delays. If Take-Two can deliver it's franchises on a more compressed schedule, it's earnings power would essentially double, and the stock would command a much higher price."
At first read, I thought to myself "Self, this is ludicrous!" - but after looking at it some more, I wondered if, in the words of Ingio Montoya "I do not think it means what you think it means."
The basic premise of the statement, from a pure business point of view, is certainly true. If you delivered products more often, and perhaps regulary, you would make more money and investors would be happy.
Out of this we have to assume quite a bit. A game sells a certain number of units at a certain price because of 1) marketing, and 2) it meets a certain quality standard that the consumer will accept. This statement assumes that the income from a single title would "essentially double" if they halved the production time - which means the PRICE didn't change, and the number of units SOLD didn't change - only the time spent changed, and the time spent is reduced through lowering quality standards, and lower development expectations.
Is this right? Will a developer be successful by lowering the bar, and honoring nothing but the date? If the quality and feature list of a game is decreased by half, in order to get it out in half the time - will it be as successful? I'd like to think "no" - but this article certainly made me think about that some more.
Certainly we can all think of titles that suffered from being shipped before they were really done. The unknown analysis really is - were those developers and publishers better off because of it? If Take-Two did what they had to do by cutting quality and cutting features in order to ship in 9 months, would the investors be happy? Would everyone make more money?
Of course, it's also true that as designers, we can't simply take as long as it takes (unless you happen to work for a publisher and a franchise that enables this sort of thing.). There is a balance to be struck between the creativity of design and implementation of features, and the resources in the way of time and money that we realistically have at our disposal. I call this kind of thing "Designing for the box" - the box being the size of your resources. And it's the balance between the quality of the design and the size of the resource pool that makes a game successful - both from a creative/design point of view, and from a business/money point of view. It reminds me of that old addage - "You can have it high quality; on time; on budget - choose two."
So while Mr. Pachter is right, he is also wrong. You can't base value and success only on time to market. The quality of your product is at least half of your value and success, and probably more of the value of your brand in the long run.
The real question now is - how are we as developers and industry professionals going to deal with this balance issue? Ignore it and hope it goes away? Or embrace it as an opportunity to improve the quality of our work?
I leave those answers as an exercise for the reader.