Horizon: Zero Dawn. No Man’s Sky. Yooka-Laylee. Heck, even the remaster of Final Fantasy XII was probably planned for 2016 before it got announced. It feels like the last few weeks have just been delay after delay after delay. A short while ago, the PC release of Kingdom Come: Deliverance was delayed into 2017.
Although Shigeru Miyamoto was right when he said, “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad,” a delay can really hurt anybody anticipating a new game. The Kingdom Come delay hurts PC players especially, who were hoping to play the ambitious, non-fantasy, open-world RPG inside of a few months. However, in the long run, the game will benefit from this extra time in the oven: not all delays are bad, and we don’t need to be grumpy about them.
TYPES OF GAME DELAY
As you may have guessed from Mr Miyamoto’s quote, delays can actually be great. Though not always, a delay tends to come in one of several different types.
The Acceptable Delay: These are the easiest to deal with (No Man’s Sky reaction aside) because really, they are nothing to worry about. Sometimes, like with The Last of Us, a game might need just a little more polish. The same developer delayed Uncharted 4 just so that Sony could manufacture enough extra copies for launch. Even Horizon: Zero Dawn, assuming it meets its new date, is surely going to result in a better game over all. On the other hand, when games still don’t make their delayed date, you have …
The Notorious Delay: These hardly ever turn out well. After several delays, sometimes of years upon years, the zombie product lurches onto store shelves with no regard for the changing times. Duke Nukem Forever might be the highest-profile in this category, but Aliens: Colonial Marines and the recent Homefront: The Revolution are other examples. We really hope that The Last Guardian (and maybe even the mythical Half Life 3, if it ever sees the light of day) isn’t like this.
The “We’re Bigger Than Release Dates” Delay: This is the type of delay practiced by Blizzard, Rockstar, and other companies that are so successful that they don’t have to rely on yearly schedules to make their money. Most of the time, these games don’t even receive initial dates, but they nevertheless take a very long time: longer than to be expected, because rather than just coming “about every 2 to 4 years”, they are released “When It’s Done” (or the infamous Blizzard “Soon”).
The Rebootified Delay: Finally, this is the type of delay that comes back and proves Mr Miyamoto’s quote at the top of the page. Though rare, this shows that enough time can fix even some of the toughest design challenges. With Doom as the most recent example, the upcoming Final Fantasy XV looks to be much the same. The project, that may have been in development hell for many years, is simply rebooted entirely – leaving behind the elements that could have ruined the game and still taking inspiration from the hard work done so far. This is what should happen when a game suffers from the notorious delay.
Luckily for fans of open-world RPGs, Kingdom Come: Deliverance fits into the first category. Originally scheduled for this summer, the PC release of the game is being pushed back so that the publisher can have the console versions out at the same time.
Kingdom Come developer Warhorse Studios is still quite small, and while the game has been met with pre-release hype for its unconventional approach to the RPG genre, response to the beta was mixed. Delaying the initial release will give Warhorse Studios several important opportunities.
MORE TIME FOR POLISH
Back when The Last of Us was delayed, Naughty Dog wasn’t kidding about the last few weeks needed to bring up the quality to a higher internal standard. When fine tuning UI, controls or just the pacing of certain scenes, a few weeks of development can mean the difference between a good game and a great game. History has borne out the radical difference between previews and the final product, so if the delay into 2017 can make a great game out of Kingdom Come, we should all be thankful for the extra time it has to bake.
In addition, while franchises like Grand Theft Auto can afford to stagger their release across multiple platforms, a relatively untested concept (a non-fantasy RPG) and an unknown IP cannot take such a risk. The publisher of Kingdom Come was right to want to sync up the PC and console release, because now they have six more months to build up anticipation. Having the game available in as many places as possible at launch will also mean the game hopefully gets every sale it can.
Unfortunately, summer – especially late summer – is no longer the haven for untested franchises and genres it might once have been. The traditional fall/early-winter holiday release schedule is so packed that some very high-profile titles are now coming in August and July (in RPG franchises alone, the new Deus Ex and Star Ocean games). The delay of Kingdom Come‘s release into early next year puts it in the much better position that Dark Souls III and last year’s The Witcher 3 made their own. Looking for that spring-RPG-fling after the dust settles on Christmas? Maybe Kingdom Come: Deliverance will be just what you need.
A game being delayed might hurt in the short term, but every delay is also a chance for the game to be so much better. Rather than feel bad when a game gets pushed back, take comfort in the knowledge that it could be all the difference it needs to go from good to great.
Except if it’s Duke Nukem. Some games just shouldn’t come out at all.