The modern game release cycle is sadly familiar: the game is leaked, announced, delayed, gets an alpha-test, then finally launches … with more bugs than an ant farm:

Alternatively, the game could enter a permanent state of early access, which is identical to launching with bugs, but you get to tell players, "Well, that's because it's in early access!" The only thing you can be certain of is that if any game is coming out, it's gonna be an absolute buggy mess for days, weeks, or sometimes months after you can get your thumbs on it.

Maybe you've taken a moment as your character t-posed in the middle of a gunfight and thought, "Why is this happening? Millions and millions of dollars go into every detail of these games; how can they be so monumentally buggy every time?" And doesn't it feel like the bigger a game is, the more likely it is to have a release plagued by bugs? Why is that?

There are two big categories of reasons that games are released in monstrous Frankenstein states. The first is timing -- when a game comes out, who controls that, and how important it is to a game's success.

Game releases are like jokes. They're all about timing, timing, delivery. For larger games, you need to time the release carefully to avoid other major releases that might overshadow your game's launch. Marketing needs months to coordinate humongous amounts of advertising, PR, and hype to get your game some healthy buzz. And on top of all of that, there are serious financial considerations- whoever is pouring millions of dollars into a game expects to get their millions back with more to spare, and they want it a lot sooner than later. 

So if you're making a game and you tell your company that it's going to be ready in September, but then you find bug after bug and tell them actually it might be more like January, that's a huge deal. The marketing has to be pushed back, or worse, publicly corrected. The calendar has to be consulted to make sure that Apex of Legends: Call of Battlefield 2 isn't due to come out in January. Someone has to go break it to the board that they can't buy another superyacht until next year (gulp). So rather than be the least popular person in your company, maybe you just hope that you'll solve all the bugs and work harder and harder and harder until the release date is upon you and you're putting out Cyberpunk 2077.

Cyberpunk 2077 release promo -  Stop Accepting Buggy Video Game Releases
Technically Cyberpunk 2077 beat its announced launch date because it came out before it was ready.

The other reason games come out with bugs is because they can, with tooling allowing devs to change a game after it's launched. 

Before Playstation and Xbox, when you released a game, it was out in the world. No one can change the code on my Diddy Kong Racing cartridge because it's a physical item I own, and it is never connected to the internet in any way. (Also, you can't change it because it's perfect and I love it.) But modern consoles are online to a fault- and modern games are built with updates, patches, and DLC in mind.

And patches are Pandora's box of shipping bugs. Once you can release a bug and patch it out at a later date … why not do it? You can solve it later. Make it tomorrow's problem. Fix it in post. This is absolutely the reason we see the rise of the perma-Early Access games. 

By never launching, they've got carte blanche to patch and a hall pass for a certain level of bugs. We deserve better.

Top Image: Electronic Arts

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