If It Ain't Broke... Or Even If It Is

By Jonathan Barnes, 2 years ago
Yesterday's news that WB Games would not be working on any more patches for their (reportedly) still-buggy release, Batman: Arkham Origins in favor of working on DLC sent minor ripples through the industry. In an age where consoles are connected to the internet and it is de rigueur to send games to print with a few bugs and fix them with frequent patches. It is more unusual to have a game NOT require a patch, especially after it has been out for a few months. When a game is in the wild and doesn't receive any post-release support, it's an unspoken sign that either A - the developer thinks everything is perfect with the game or B - the developer does not care. At this juncture, WB Games reluctance to fix their game (in favor of making DLC) squarely places them in the "B - Does Not Care" category. As gamers, this is an unacceptable development, sets a dangerous precedent for the industry, and destroys any type of trust that WB Games may have garnered.

If you're looking for the example of the right thing to do (and a good definition of "high irony" if you ask a subset of gamers), take a look at what DICE and EA are doing with Battlefield 4. At this stage in the game Battlefield 4 is more patch now than game, but unlike WB Games, DICE and EA promised to halt work on new DLC until the game is patched, fixed, and stable. Say what you will about EA, but that's the right move. WB, on the other hand, has taken the exact opposite approach saying, "The team is currently working hard on the upcoming story DLC and there currently are no plans for releasing another patch to address the issues that have been reported on the forums."

The statement goes on to say that if they move forward with a new patch, it will only address "progression blocking bugs" and that the issues that are not progression blockers will no longer be addressed. In other words, WB Games knows that there are still some "progression blocking bugs" that have the potential to prevent gamers from finishing their game, but they're more focused on making new money rather than fixing their product. Furthermore, they're completely uninterested in non-progression blockers. To me, this is like being a doctor saying he's going to stop providing a patient with dialysis so that he can devote those resources towards giving them a facelift. Also, he doesn't care that the patient has bird flu, monkey pox, and whatever virus du jour is spreading like wildfire, because this tummy is not going to nip and tuck itself. In short, abandoning a game with known (and occasionally severe) issues in favor of making more money off of a consumer base reeks of bad business. At this point, that type of business practice should not be tolerated by gamers.

Joker Entry

I get it, I really do. In this day and age a lot of developers rely on the DLC sales (and "Game of the Year" editions) to balance out initial development costs. Furthermore, many developers start work on DLC in the period between when a game goes gold and finally hits the market. Even further, many developers will work on DLC while also working on patches. All of that is common practice (if distasteful to some) these days, but to abandon fixing a broken game in favor of making new content is a bridge too far; it's like pimping out an Edsel.

When I read yesterday's story, my thoughts instantly went to the copy of Origins that I received from my sister for Xmas. I instantly remembered that the game was still unopened and had the receipt attached to it. That game is now going back to the retailer and that money will be invested in a developer that cares to release quality products and support them. I won't be re-buying Origins at any time soon, nor will I be buying DLC, or the inevitable "Game of the Year" edition. My time and gaming dollar will be better invested in a game and developer that focus on making games right rather than making dollars.
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.