Opinion – Why I Don’t Like Early Game Announcements

by Kimberley Wallace on Feb 11, 2014 at 10:30 AM

I get it. We all like to get excited for what’s awaiting us. We want to know the future looks bright for our favorite hobby. You could say I’m impatient, but I actually prefer when I don’t know about a game until its release is a year or so away. I know that’s not a likely window with how much publishers want to promote what’s coming. However, it feels like anything sooner has way too many variables…too much of an opportunity to never materialize. The feeling is worse knowing about the existence of something and then never seeing it, or constantly wondering if you ever will.

We’ve seen it happen repeatedly. Games with a lot of buzz and fanfare get delayed indefinitely. Look at Beyond Good & Evil 2. The first game remains beloved to this day. Naturally, fans got excited when in 2008 Ubisoft designer Michel Ancel talked about a follow-up to the cult classic being in pre-production to French magazine, Jeux Vidéo. At the time, Ubisoft hadn’t even given the project the greenlight. Thankfully, Ubsioft did confirm the project, but since 2008 we’ve barely heard anything about Beyond Good & Evil 2, except for it still being under development with no solid release date set. 

Then three years later, it was announced that the project would not release on Xbox 360 and PS3 as planned and instead move on to the next console generation. Last E3, I thought for sure we’d see something about it and was sadly disappointed to once again hear nothing. I understand Ancel was most likely brimming with excitement about working on the next entry, but I wish he and Ubisoft kept it under wraps until they were confident about it releasing in a specific timeframe. 

Right now, we’re approaching a six-year wait; the hold-up has started to tarnish my excitement for the game and I wonder if I should be concerned it’s been this long. I’m all for developers taking their time to put out the best product possible and acknowledging when they need more time, but Beyond Good & Evil 2’s delay would be easier to endure if it wasn’t so hefty. For instance, look at Watch Dogs. Although it was tied in with the PlayStation 4 launch, I’m okay with a delay that should be less than a year. 

Unexpected occurrences happen in development, but it’s important for publishers not to discuss games when they’re still in the planning stages. Square Enix is notorious for this. To prove that they had plenty of Final Fantasy games in the pipeline, Square Enix announced Final Fantasy Versus XIII at E3 in 2006. Since then, few developments had been revealed, sparking cancelation rumors. Finally, seven years later, Square announced at this past E3 that it was turning Final Fantasy Versus XIII into Final Fantasy XV. This was another case of a game making a move to a new console generation. It also left me afraid to feel confident about any release window or date Square sets for it. I don’t want to get my hopes up again, only to be crushed with more delays. 

The Last Guardian shares a similar tale. Announced at E3 in 2009, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the new game from Team Ico. At this past TGS, Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony's worldwide studios, confirmed that the title was still being worked on and that Sony is waiting to “reintroduce it."  I surely haven’t forgotten about it, but the fact that it’s been so long that it needs to be reintroduced is problematic. I have to wonder, are we being reintroduced to another long wait?

I know game shows and investors put pressure on publishers to show what’s coming, but I’d rather not hear of these games until they’re actually moving toward an attainable release window. I’m glad developers are excited to share what they’re working on, but they shouldn’t count their chickens before they hatch. If production hasn’t even started, I don’t want to know about it. 

Things always change and unexpected obstacles are likely during the creative process. If even putting a release window on a game makes publishers and developers uncomfortable, I’d rather not see the game yet. I want games unveiled when they’re at a more mature stage in the development process. If publishers want to announce early, they better have enough updates and new information to supplement the wait. Because announcing too early can deflate the excitement; year after year, people get tired of hearing the same story of “No news, but it’s still in development.”