I know it’s probably too much to hope for, but there is a sign that some of the bigger MMORPG developers are finally learning that it doesn’t pay to release a game in a half-finished, buggy state.
Bill Roper who, since his stint at Flagship Studios, is the Design Director and Executive Producer for Champions Online announced that they are pushing back the release day for Champions from June to September. Roper made the following comment as part of his statement (via Massively):
It is critically important for an MMO to be as good as it possibly can be at launch.
A truer statement about launching a MMORPG has never been spoken.
Of course Bill Roper has a pretty decent first hand experience of what can happen when the game that you’ve poured your blood, sweat, tears, and not to mention a pretty hefty chunk of your wallet into, is released before it’s ready. Hellgate London, while it made a pretty good single player game, was terrible at launch for the MMO part of the game.
The thing that MMORPG developers have to realise is that the market expectations have changed in the last few years. While some would like to blame the so-called WoW Tourist for the failure of some high profile games, the biggest reason for the failure of these games has been with quality and quantity of the game and content.
Put simply, players today expect more and better of the games they play than they did ten years ago. If you’ve been playing WoW with all its polish for the last couple of years, and the new MMORPG you’ve purchased is a buggy mess then why should you be expected to put up with that?
And these days, the first days after release are crucial. One of the most celebrated messed-up launches was the Anarchy Online launch, at the time I heard it described as the worst launch ever, yet Funcom were able to fix the problems and deliver a fairly popular game that is still running. Now, there’s not just a lot more publicity thanks to the Internet, there’s a lot more choice for the gamer. If a game sucks at launch, players won’t hang around waiting for the miracle patches, they’ll just leave and try the next one, or they’ll go back to the last game they enjoyed — probably WoW — and everybody will hear and avoid the game.
So here’s to the push-back of Champions Online’s release date. While a push back hasn’t always worked in the past, if the developers can fix the issues and avoid the pressure to release too early, we should be able to expect a better game in September.