Paying It Forward: Great Concept For Life; Maybe Not For Video Games

God bless CD Projekt Red for continuing to support The Witcher III long after its release, both with new content and with necessary patches. And yet, while the game was at no point broken or un-fun, and more than delivered over a hundred hours of content out of the gate, I can’t help but be irritated at some of the things that CDPR finds itself needing to fix at this point in time: a global stash for items? A sortable inventory? A separate tab for the various books you’ve collected so that you don’t need to sort through infinite tomes before getting to the potions that you’re supposed to be using before every fight? Given the choice between no The Witcher III and a slightly sub-optimal version, I clearly choose the latter–this isn’t a Batman: Arkham Knight rush-job by a separate developer–and yet it kills me that there might not have been the money in the budget to clear up these things, and that we live in a world in which developers have to willingly release games that fall short of their own goals and expectations, simply so that they can earn enough money to put it together properly. 

To be fair, video games aren’t alone in this–Hollywood often does the same thing, cobbling together a studio cut in order to get it as profitably into theaters as possible, and then doubling down on their back end by releasing the “director’s cut,” either using the money from the full release to fund the more time-consuming and careful edit that the director originally wanted, or simply ginning up a few skimpy differences that can justify a second purchase. That, to me, is a far more cynical and depressing form of outreach than what we find in the world of gaming, where developers are far more likely to be guilty of overreach–trying to deliver everything to everyone–than they are of attempting to oversell. (That said, publishers chop things up just like the studios, which is why you now get season passes of DLC extras.)

I think it comes down to sincerity and intentions, then. When Bethesda fumbles the release of one of their titles but then works overtime to make sure that those same errors don’t occur in their latest, they earn a certain amount of goodwill. Despite the title, I don’t think Tim Schaefer wanted to break Broken Age into two parts, and he did eventually make good on his promises to consumers, though it took him longer than expected to do so. That said, if we continue to be Mulders–wanting to believe–then we’re going to keep getting taken advantage of (to varying degrees); instead, we have to be like Scully and just get proof first and foremost. No more pre-orders. Kickstart at your own risk. Once you’ve seen the game, and are satisfied with the build that you’ve seen, pick it up. But we have to make the things that we’re willing to put up with absolutely clear . . . or we’re going to have to keep stomaching more and more.

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