The video game industry won’t change until the consumer does

Credit: Courtesy of  Fuad Suedan Diaz via Flickr Credit: Courtesy of Fuad Suedan Diaz via Flickr
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This past week, I’ve been sinking some of my freetime into beating “Pokémon Violet,” one of the latest entries in the franchise. I have to say that I have greatly enjoyed the game despite its flaws. It has some serious performance and graphics issues and was arguably unfinished at its time of release. This is just one of many instances of companies releasing an unfinished game to consumers.

“Pokémon Scarlet” and “Pokémon Violet” are two games on an ever-growing list of games that have been released "unfinished." Other honorable mentions on this list include “Cyberpunk 2077,” “No Man’s Sky,” and recent PC release of “The Callisto Protocol.” A positive thing is that all of these games are modern releases, meaning they can be patched after launch. But that’s exactly the problem: that means companies can release incomplete games that can be “fixed” later via patches.

I think one of the most famous sayings in the video game world comes from Nintendo game director Shigeru Miyamoto: “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” While this may have been true before the era of patches, I don’t think it really holds true anymore. Just look at “No Man’s Sky.” The game had a lackluster launch that didn’t meet fans’ expectations. Several years of free updates later, the game is hardly recognizable — it has been improved immensly. A rushed game might not be bad forever, but it is certainly nothing to strive for.

As long as fans continue to purchase these incomplete games, companies will continue to release them and then (hopefully) fix them later. The only people losing here are the fans who continue to pay $60 or more for the mess that these developers are putting out.

The “Pokémon” franchise is a fantastic example of fan loyalty turning a franchise into a complete mess. For me, “Pokémon X” and “Pokémon Y” were the last mainline games that felt any semblance of “complete” at launch (and even then, some aspects of the game were lacking). But generation after generation, people continue to buy the titles at launch (myself included). This gives Game Freak no incentive to have a complete, polished product on launch day because people will buy it regardless of its state.

I fully acknowledge that I am part of the problem. Nothing is going to change until consumers force companies to change these practices. Sooner or later, brand loyalty is going to run out (I hope) and Game Freak and these other companies are going to have to realize that current practices are unsustainable. Hopefully. they’ll realize more time and resources need to be spent on these games before they release.

This isn’t to say that patches and updates post-launch are bad. Patches and updates show dedication to games — that developers are willing to listen to the fans, iron out any bugs that were in the original game, and add new content. “Terraria” is a great example of this. The game’s sixth “final” update is set to launch in 2023. The game was good to begin with, and each subsequent update has made it even better. The developers behind the game love their work and their fans, and the development of “Terraria” is an exemplar of what good developer support looks like.

But in the end, it is entirely up to the consumer what is acceptable. Despite knowing that “Pokémon Violet” has flaws and could be a better game, I have still been enjoying it. It has one of the best stories in the series, and I’m really enjoying the open-world. Nonetheless, I acknowledge that not the best Game Freak has to offer, and in the future, I plan on waiting for a game to be deemed “finished” before I purchase it.