The lights are on
The video-game industry would be better off if more companies were brave (and financially secure) enough to do what Blizzard did by sending its upcoming MMO project, codenamed Titan, back to the prototyping phase when it wasn't living up to their expectations.
The monolithic developer/publisher recently shifted the bulk of Titan's development staff to other projects while effectively going back to the drawing board on the title. Originally slated for a late-2013 launch according to a leaked investor slide, the game is now headed for a 2016 release. Ultimately, this is a good thing.
Years ago, I was struck by a remark Blizzard VP of game development Rob Pardo made in the course of an interview I was conducting. The hot topic at the time was the company's cancellation of StarCraft: Ghost. I'd had the pleasure of playing an early version of the title's multiplayer at BlizzCon the year previous and rather enjoyed myself, and I said as much. Pardo was unsurprised by the feedback; he agreed that the game was fun. However, that fact meant something very different to Pardo and to the rest of Blizzard than how most companies would view such a thing.
Pardo said that the company felt internally that it was an 80-85 game. According to Pardo, the company had no desire to release a game of that quality.
I was stunned. Most publishers would publish 80-85 games (in terms of review scores) all day long and jump at the chance – because many players will buy those games, enjoy them, and be thankful for the opportunity. Blizzard doesn't release any old game and count it as a win when it turns a profit, though. Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo, World of Warcraft – Blizzard's franchises are behemoths that impact the entire video game market when they release.
Imagine a world in which Activision, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and everyone else felt the same way.
Imagine a world where you knew, based on a decades-long track record, that the upcoming James Bond game was going to be an incredible experience that brought cinematic, stealthy action to a new level. Or that you got butterflies in your stomach when a Prince of Persia reboot is announced after the franchise being dormant for years because you knew that it was going to be an event and that you'd be playing it for months afterward.
Imagine a world in which 10-year-old games were still being patched with new content.
There are a million reasons why this isn't the case. The status quo has its advantages – Fuse might not re-write the co-op bible, but plenty of folks are enjoying blasting through some popcorn action with ridiculous weapons. That game never gets released in an alternate universe where every company acts like Blizzard. Sometimes even Blizzard doesn't please everyone, with many fans upset about the direction the developers took with Diablo III (and millions strong playing the game anyway).
But in this world, where I have a backlog miles high and more games come out every day, the idea of having a tenth of the games to play but all of them being wall-to-wall amazing on the level of Starcraft or Half-Life has a definite appeal.