Can We Avoid Botched Launches In the Next Generation?

Following in the footsteps of Diablo 3 and SimCity, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm reborn proved we still have a lot to learn about preparing for game launches.
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Forgive me for not jumping in no-questions-asked before the reviews came out, but I wanted to make sure that the remake of a game, which during its first release was almost universally hated, was any good before spending any money on it. Now that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has been enjoying some pretty positive reviews, I’ve decided I’m all in. Let’s play!

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Oh… wait…

I can’t download it directly from the website right now? Those server issues the game was having must not actually be fixed yet; so they’re not allowing any new digital orders for the time being. Ok, not to worry. I’ll run down to my local game store, and pick up a copy there. Oh… wait… they’re all sold out, and don’t know when they expect any new copies? Huh… ok, well I guess I can order it online, and just play it in a couple days. Oh…. wait… Amazon is saying it will take two to three weeks to ship. Huh… well I guess I will just have to wait.

Poor server performance… is this a trend?

I understand the need to control server populations, especially when the servers are not performing well, but it sure is disappointing to find out a game that is receiving great scores is unavailable anywhere. I am certainly not a server expert and have no idea what goes into making sure they are able to be up and running at full capacity, but I am incredibly frustrated by how many games these days come out with issues like this at launch. I’m talking about games like Diablo 3 on PC, SimCity (both at its original launch earlier this year and then just recently on Mac as well), and now Final Fantasy XIV. It seems to be a growing trend with bigger games that require an internet connection to play and it concerns me for the future, especially as we enter what is being called “the next generation.” We are being pushed into an online-only digital world (Xbox One anyone?), but instances like this make me less confident we have the infrastructure to make it work.

What happens when Titanfall releases on Xbox One next year? With Microsoft pushing digital downloads as the premier way to experience the games, will they have the server capacity come the game’s launch for everyone to log on, navigate to the store, download the game, and then actually log on to join the action? I wish I could say I was 100% confident they’ll have it figured out, but I would have expected Blizzard to have it figured out too, and look what happened with Diablo 3.

I certainly don’t have a solution for what seems to be a growing problem, and whenever I’ve expressed concern on the internet before, people don’t seem to be concerned this is an issue. I hope, for all our sake’s, it’s not. I hope Microsoft, Sony, and the game developers are learning from the mistakes of those that fell before them. I hope they are realizing that the demand to play their game might actually be even more than they expect. I hope people who are much smarter than me are working on ways to prevent this from ever happening again, because there’s nothing more frustrating than taking a day off of work, specifically to play a new game, only to have it not work at all.

If we’re going to throw around the words “next generation” and promise a bright new future for gaming, I really hope these launch week debacles will be a thing of the past.

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Brian Armstrong
Proud gamer parent and freelance journalist (and fundraiser). I cover anything and everything that's interesting about the gaming industry, and even some stuff that isn't so interesting.