What Is Going On With All These Unfinished Games?

Unfinished games have been a blight of the industry releasing with half baked features, or a ton of game breaking bugs. Some have even had advertised features outright canceled. Most recently with Overwatch 2, Blizzard canceled the promised PvE Hero mode due to a “lack of resources”. I don’t know how much I buy that since Activision has been going through a huge merger with Xbox. You’d think with one of the biggest gaming companies in the world, they’d have the money and resources to finish one game mode. Team Fortress 2 made their own PvE mode back in 2012, why can’t Blizzard do the same? WGG’s very own Dr. Bob had some things to say about the cancellation.

Unfinished and Unrealized

So why does this keep happening? Is it poor management, tight deadlines, lack of budget, issues with software? We really don’t have any single reason why, or know exactly why these things keep happening. Several games recently released unfinished or half baked, like Redfall, Halo: Infinite, Cyberpunk 2077, Jedi Survivor, and Pokemon Scarlet and Violet. Even PC ports have gotten the end of the stick, with the infamous Last of Us PC port being a prime example. 

Unfinished PC ports feel certainly that with a sloppy looking Joel from The Last of Us

How I’d love to be a fly on the wall in these studios to really understand what is going on to make these games release so broken and unfinished. It also begs to question whether any of these companies would face any legal repercussions for false advertisement. How far can a game release from what was promised for something like that to happen? We haven’t seen many examples of this happening, no matter how unfinished a game may seem.

Now what would it take for these games to come out the way people expect them to? Do developers have to temper expectations and cut features from the design in order to meet deadlines? Or do they just need a little more time in the oven? Imagine Halo Infinite with couch co-op, or Pokemon Scarlet and Violet with the performance of a game like Tears of the Kingdom. We would probably be in a new gaming golden age.

The Right People for the Right Job

Xbox’s Phil Spencer elaborated on Redfall’s issues with Kinda Funny Xcast. “We do mock reviews for every game that we launch, and this is double digits lower than what we thought we would be.” Maybe this hints at something wrong with management. Is there an inherent bias from the internal “mock” reviews that are causing games to release like this? Are people not being heard within the game development system?

Regardless of whatever issues are, a lot of these questions may never be fully answered. I do know however, that if you have people who can’t work well together or have different views on a certain feature of a game, it’s bound to create conflict and delays. Running a game company isn’t as simple as hiring people. You need to recruit people who are talented and know what they are doing. You also need the right talent with the right people who can work together. What game companies really do when they hire is fulfilling roles. If two talented people fulfill two different roles and work well together, you can get some amazing results. If you can’t, well you get something half baked. This, and a bunch of other speculation as to what could be going on is a possible cause.

So What’s Going On?

“If I think about a team’s execution on a game, we had a creative vision, and did we realize that vision through the game that we created?” said Phil Spencer when asked about what goes into delaying or releasing a game as is. “That’s not a delay question if the answer is no…we will build games that review in the high 80s and we will build games that review in the 60s. It’s just kind of part of being in game publishing…I think there’s a fundamental piece of feedback that we get that the game isn’t the creative vision that it had for its players. That doesn’t feel like a ‘hey let’s just delay it’ it feels like the game had a goal to do one thing and when players are actually playing they’re not feeling that thing.” 

So what about a game that needs to be delayed? Phil Spencer had this to say about that. “When a game needs to be delayed, it’s because the production timeline is saying we have this vision and our production timelines don’t get us to the completion of that vision, we (then) do delay games.” So according to what Phil Spencer said, a game only gets delayed if a part of it isn’t hitting deadlines to a completion of a set vision. 

From Unfinished to Achieving a Vision

There are schedules and deadlines for different milestones with a game being made in the industry. I know that much from my degree in game design. But when a game isn’t hitting deadlines, then it may be delayed. But why release a game if you know it’s not going to be achieving your vision? Maybe it’s because they want to free up talent to work on something that may work. Maybe it’s because they just don’t think it would be worth the resources to achieve that vision if they never fully hit it. For whatever reason it is, I hope we start seeing more big releases hit their vision.

You can listen to the whole Phil Spencer interview in the video below:


Games Journalist, Competitive Pokemon/VGC Player, Content Creator

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