AAA gaming has been in a rough spot for some years now. As development cycles continually increase in time, players grow more impatient and less satisfied after the hype that naturally builds from years and years of wait time which oftentimes concludes with a lackluster product. There are a lot of fingers pointing at a lot of different perceived sources of the issues with modern gaming, though many are red herrings or just straight-up delusional attempts at projecting certain personal opinions onto the entertainment industry at large. The reality is that many developers have spoken in the past on why certain AAA games keep failing, and that allows willing to listen to gain a clear perspective on what the real issues are plaguing many major releases today.
1. Copy-Paste Mechanics
When a particular style of game becomes wildly successful, every big publisher wants to get its foot in the door. This has been replicated with every major gaming trend since the beginning of the medium, whether that be CoD-style first-person shooters, Fornite/PUBG-style battle royale games, or Minecraft-style survival-crafting titles. The fact is, however, that a lot of these games wind up falling to the wayside, especially when they rely too heavily on essentially copying the thing that is its source inspiration in the first place.
Games like Days Gone and Anthem failed to establish themselves as unique enough from their ilk to warrant much player attention and ultimately suffered as a result.
2. Not Listening to the Players
Do the players always know what’s best? Absolutely not, and they usually never unilaterally agree on anything. When a large majority are voicing their concerns about issues within a franchise, however, it might be best for the developer to listen. When that doesn’t happen, like with the many problems facing Modern Warfare 3 and its lackluster campaign, odd attempt at zombies, and terrible integration with Warzone, the players are going to react and the result is going to be Activision touting “record engagement” instead of any actual meaningful statistic like sales, concurrent players, or user reviews.
3. Overpromise, Underdeliver
Video game trailers are the perfect place for developers and publishers to promise the world to players. Plenty of videos in the past have showcased just how misleading this oftentimes is, like in the case of Battlefield 2042. The “*Not actual in-game footage” disclaimer has become essential for detecting when a trailer is trying to sell unrealistic expectations for a game versus trying to show off the actual game itself, and even then, supposed in-game footage can still be wildly misleading when compared to the actual launch experience.
4. Crunch, Crunch, Crunch
The primary thing many game designers, coders, and all other kinds of developers are complaining about right now is crunch. Few studios are innocent, and many have fallen at the center of the controversy when the work conditions expected in many of these places in order to meet deadlines come to light. Working all night for days on end, through holidays and birthdays and everything else. It’s no surprise that games can oftentimes underdeliver when given ridiculous deadlines that force developers to push themselves to their absolute limits. Exhausted minds make mistakes and miss errors.
Earlier this year, it was confirmed by a leaker that the Redfall release date was way too soon and that Arkane Studios was being expected by Microsoft to crunch in order to make the game acceptable for launch. The results speak for themselves.
5. Release Broken, Finish Later
This may be the singular problem that frustrates players the most in the current state of the gaming industry. If a crowd of a thousand players was asked to raise their hands for how many of them have heard something like “The game bombed at first but you gotta try it now, they fixed all the problems,” many hands in that crowd would likely go up. The list of games committing this sin goes on and on; Fallout 76, Assassin’s Creed Unity, No Man’s Sky, Cyberpunk 2077, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Final Fantasy 14, etc. etc.
The sad reality is that developers are more-or-less incentivized to do this as long as the “You have to try it now that it’s fixed” mindset continues. It gives major releases two major winds. The first is when it initially comes out and capitalizes on the hype, and the second when players begin to rave that the game is finally at the point the developers promised it would be at upon release.