How Video Game Delays Could Benefit Gamers

The delays took time to show up, but they're finally here

Key Takeaways

  • Video games are scheduled out so far in advance that the impact of external disruptions to their production cycle might not show up for months.
  • Logistically, it's been a challenge for many development teams to switch to pandemic-mandated distributed teams.
  • More time at home has pushed a lot of new customers into video games, but some companies struggle with the increased demand for supplies and server space.
Screenshot from the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

Many of the most anticipated games of 2021 have been delayed, which may disappoint many players. In what could be an unexpectedly quiet year for games, however, this could lead to more remasters and remakes, bringing classic and cult games back into the limelight.

Some of 2021’s biggest titles, such as Amazon's New World, Sony's Returnal, WB Games' Hogwarts Legacy, Bungie’s The Witch Queen expansion for Destiny 2, and Ubisoft's Far Cry 6 recently have shifted their planned release windows, some to as far out as 2022. 

Others, such as Ubisoft's remake of The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Paradox Interactive's Vampire: The Masquerade–Bloodlines 2, have been postponed indefinitely.

Some companies like Paradox Interactive have canceled projects. Other companies, such as Koei Tecmo, Square Enix, and Blizzard, are filling the gaps in their release schedule with compilations, remakes, and re-releases.

"A delayed game is eventually good. A bad game is bad forever."

"We’re living in extraordinary circumstances right now," wrote Colin Johanson, the director of Amazon Game Studios’ now-defunct hero shooter Crucible, in May of 2020 on the game's official blog.

"Our entire team is working from home as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 situation… We’ve had to adjust virtually everything about the way we work as a team to make this possible."

We Want It All, and We Want It Now

Delays, and attempts to avoid them, are a fact of life in game development. Video games, particularly big projects like massively multiplayer shooters (Call of Duty) or open-world sandboxes (Grand Theft Auto), are more difficult to make than players often realize

Screenshot from New World.

They're complicated projects with dozens, if not hundreds, of collaborators, and can be in development for years.

As a result, some companies adopt controversial "crunch culture" practices, where developers put in massive amounts of overtime in attempts to hit their release dates. On the other extreme, some companies, like Nintendo and Blizzard, have strong policies of not rushing development. 

Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto is famously cited as saying, "A delayed game is eventually good. A bad game is bad forever." (He later clarified, in a 2016 YouTube interview, that "what I meant to say is if you release a game in a bad state, you will always regret it.")

What's Left to Look Forward to

In any given year, the video game release calendar is more of a series of hopeful suggestions. In 2021, things are more in flux than usual. There are still a number of exciting games that haven't been delayed, however, such as Resident Evil 8, Deathloop, Mario Golf: Super Rush, and Back 4 Blood.

One thing to expect more of, as the year develops, is more re-releases and compilations, like the recently announced SaGa Frontier, Ninja Gaiden Collection, and Stubbs the Zombie.

Reaching into the back library is a proven way that big companies can keep the lights on, particularly if any more major projects are forced into 2022.

Last year was huge for the video game industry, with a 20% surge in revenue and a huge expansion of the overall audience. Gaming as a medium has never been healthier or more visible.

The question raised by these delays is whether the industry can maintain 2020’s momentum and continue to grow the market, or if this bubble’s bound to burst. For gamers on the ground, that means 2021 should be easier on their wallets.

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