It's been a year of high-profile delays. Evolve, Battlefield Hardline, The Division, Batman, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Assassin's Creed Unity, The Order and GTA 5 on PC are just a few high profile slips on the list. Chances are: if you want it, you're going to have to wait a bit longer.
Delays seem to be increasingly common as budgets and expectations spiral out of control, but they also lack the stigma they used to have a generation or two ago. In the past, a slipped date might cast a shadow on development. Why isn't it out on time? What's gone wrong? Now, however, most delayed are accompanied by uniquely special message it's often hard to argue with - 'we can make this better'.
Sony has one of the most notable recent delays with Driveclub, a high profile PS4 launch game originally promised as the first big next-gen PS Plus freebie. Currently it's targeting October of this year and according to Sony's UK VP and MD Fergal Gara, in certain situations, holding something back is simply the right thing to do.
"If you've made a big investment and you bring it out half ready, for the wrong reasons, then there’s going to be a cost"
"Personally I think it’s the right call," he told me. With games getting increasingly more astronomically expensive to produce, the cost of a misfire isn't just about disappointed gamers or sales, it's about the opportunity to sell on. "If you've made a big investment and you bring it out half ready, for the wrong reasons, then there’s going to be a cost. You’re certainly not going to sell a second version of that new franchise you might be taking to market", says Gara.
It's not just about numbered sequels either any more. As the landscape of gaming changes, additional content and longevity are overtaking iteration. "A project like Destiny is a perfect example of how you can layer a ten year road map," explains Gara, "and it’s peppered with disks and non-disks and digital content and a whole evolving landscape".
Overall Destiny's been well received despite a mix of opinions and some gameplay highs and lows. Considering the insane amount of money that's been spent it had to be. Although when the release date was confirmed for this September even that differed from the previously pegged 'Spring'. When asked about the delay Activison CEO Eric Hirshberg mirrored Gara's own thoughts stating: "It was the right decision to delay it because you never get a second chance to launch".
Ultimately, says Gara, questioning whether you're making the best game you can is "always the right call". Returning to Driveclub he highlights the decision process that lead to its extended development: "the call was taken to pause, re-access and reset the ambitions and make sure it delivered the vision we laid out". The questions that a developer needs to ask are always this basic: "Is that as good as it should be? Do we think that's going to review as well as it should do? And ultimately sell as well as it should?" The only problem he sees is if "you lose too many in a key period and therefore end up with a drought"