Why Do Game Developers No Longer Give Any Info On Their Newest Games?

imagePeteI used the love the thrill of reading through a magazine as a child to find out all the latest news on an upcoming game.  How it was being developed, what features were being included, when it was being released.  I’d hang on every word about how it would revolutionize a console or become the start of a next big franchise, and then a few months later read an in-depth review in the weeks leading up to the big day, with a final score rating of 9/10.  I’d ingested enough information by that point to know that I had to have this particular game, so I took my pocket money and slapped a pre-order on that bad boy and come release day I was never disappointed.  Super Mario 64, Civilization II, Gran Turismo, all favourites of my childhood for one reason – I’d done my homework on all of them, because I had my trusty gaming magazines to conduct my research.

I miss that thrill.  It doesn’t exist anymore and not because commercial Internet all but wiped out gaming magazines as a few still exist, but because the information simply isn’t there anymore.  Gone are the days of extensive previews, new pieces of news filtering out of the developers office every week in the buildup to a release, now everything is all hush-hush to the point where at times I know very little about a game until I actually play it.

This was the first screenshot released for 2K16. I'm not joking.

This was the first screenshot released for 2K16. I’m not joking.

One case in point here is the upcoming wrestling game WWE 2K16. This is a game that’s scheduled to be released at the end of October, or nine weeks away at the time of writing.  By now I’d have usually expected a complete roster list several months ago, and more recently in depth interviews with the developers about what features and gameplay modes to expect and extensive video footage showcasing graphics improvements over last years offering and stuff like new moves, match types, maybe updated collision detection, new in-ring animations, that sort of thing.  As of now we know current Raw commentator John Bradshaw Layfield is joining the commentary team in a much needed update to the commentary system, the career mode will be longer than it was last year and an incomplete roster list is gradually being announced.  Oh yeah, and The Terminator is a pre-order bonus for some reason.  As far as videos go, two wrestler entrances are available as is one gameplay clip lasting 40 seconds.  We’re nine weeks away from release and that’s about all we know that’s of any significance.

That isn’t enough to convince me to hand over my money at this stage.  In fairness there is more information available than there was for last years wrestling game WWE 2K15, which incidentally was and probably forever will be the last game I pre-ordered.  I knew very little about the career mode which turned out to be bland, boring and over before it could get going, a lot of match types weren’t included and the Universe Mode feature was apparently a stripped down version of the one featured in the 2014 version. What it made me realise is I effectively made a blind purchase – nobody could even review it until three weeks after launch (and reviews were generally negative), by which time I was well aware I’d made a mistake buying 2K15, and it seems the developers haven’t learned from that mistake as I’m not alone in being apprehensive for 2K16.

ea-week-on-steamThis was a discussion I was involved in on a gaming forum, and it seems a lot of people are quite happy to buy a game without knowing much about it.  I can understand why as there is the element of surprise, it’s sometimes nice to go in apprehensive and end up pleasantly surprised by the quality of a game but for me it’s too much of a risk.  It’s one thing when it’s a five year old game on sale and you’re not sure if it’ll meet your expectations, but when it’s 75% off the asking price those expectations don’t necessarily have to be met.  On the other hand when it’s a game you’ve waited a long time for and you pay the full £40/$60 asking price for me at least I want to know exactly what I’m spending my money on.  So this time around I’ll wait for reviews for WWE 2K16 before making a decision as to whether I buy it.  The same goes for the new Need For Speed game that’s out fairly soon too, I’ll need to know a lot more about it before parting with my cash.

It all seems such a strange cycle for developers who keep quiet about their games right up to release, and then slap a review embargo on it for a further few weeks.  That just screams to me from an early stage that the game will most likely be utter crap.

Pete is part of the imaginatively titled Alan & Pete Play, and can be found on Twitter and YouTube.  He wrestled in Japan as Super Assassin in the late 80’s.

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