Why Do Some Game Developers Get Away with Buggy Games?

As of late the gaming population has seen an influx of devastatingly glitch-filled releases. Netcode issues, poor optimization, shoddy AI, and game-breaking bugs were all issues that users were becoming more and more familiar with.

Rocksteady Studios’ latest addition to the Batman: Arkham series, Batman: Arkham Knight saw a disastrous release on Steam during late June last year. Users reported massive frame rate drops, incompatibility with SLI, inferior in-game graphics settings, and poor textures. All of these concerns were present even on high-end setups, and caused the game to be suspended from sales on Steam the very day after release.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’s release during 2015 saw bugs comparable to, but not nearly as horrid as Assassin’s Creed Unity the year prior. Dodgy AI, ruined models, and finicky animations set the stage this time around, with some console users experiencing instances where the game would not boot.

Bethesda’s long awaited release of Fallout 4 had experienced bugs as well. Inept AI pathing, broken dialogue sequences, air-swimming, and iffy collision were all in some ways expected from Bethesda. Though it was reported that a consistent game crash occurs when players would travel to Monsignor Plaza, making an in-game quest entirely incompletable until the bug fixes that occurred almost a week later.

Syndicate and Arkham Knight especially suffered heavy fire from many users who experienced the ludicrous amount of glitches present in not only their respective titles, but which were evident in number of AAA releases during 2015.

What is most perplexing is that Fallout 4 has not received any comparable level of criticism to the two aforementioned titles regarding its glitches, and is instead being excused by its status as a Bethesda game – which apparently means we can’t expect it to work.

This phrase has most of its origin from Bethesda’s previous releases: Fallout 3 and more importantly The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Skyrim was critically known for its copious amounts bugs and glitches, even after being continuously extolled by the game’s director, Todd Howard.

The spectacle alone of these glitches inspired a tidal wave of players exploiting the game’s built-in bugs for enjoyment, generating tons of exploit content specially created for spectacle and humorous purposes rather than criticizing the inclusion of said bugs in the first place.

Bethesda was able to release Fallout 4 packaged with all of its persisting bugs without a critical backlash from its fan base because it was fully expected of them. With their track record, Bethesda’s name is practically synonymous with wacky physics mishaps, janky character animations, and awkward dialogue delivery.

Ubisoft, EA, Rocksteady and companies of the like have a significantly lower amount of leeway when compared to Bethesda, since Skyrim gained a reputation for being glitch filled fun.

It has become much easier for companies to release games with persistent glitches with bug fixes and patches after release now becoming the norm. Players in droves of hundreds of thousands will boot up their day one copy of their pre-ordered game, experience these bugs and write a post about it online, tell a friend, or perhaps send a bug report. In doing so, they become a massive team of unpaid and uncredited bug testers.

Fortunately, as we have seen with Arkham Knight on the PC last year, consumers are able to combat this practice through Steam’s refund system, since they effectively pulled it off the marketplace until Rocksteady fixed the problems which tormented its player base.

It could be that this practice could be dealt with by refraining from pre-orders and day one purchases until critical reviews have been released, and bugs have been effectively dealt with, but the incentives for purchasing early are becoming more and more effective at securing sales. Exclusive DLC, a chance to get in early on multiplayer prowess, and good old brand loyalty are very effective drivers.

2016 brings a new year with more and more early purchase incentives, with Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, Tom Clancy’s The Division, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and a number of other titles offering special collector’s editions, early access, and cosmetics. Consumers are going to have to face these temptations when voting with their wallet this year.

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