One thing I’ve always found a bit strange about the games industry is how games are sold immediately after they’re finished. A game is finished in August, you’ll see it on store shelves in September.
This method of working makes it harder to hit release dates, because being just a few days late pushes back the release date. It also makes it harder to promote your title, since you have to show an unfinished game to the press before the release. An obvious solution is to release games a few months after development has finished. That way being a few days late doesn’t have to impact the release date and you can show the finished game to the press months before the release.
Denis Dyack was burned with this problem last year at E3, when he showed the unfinished version of his game Too Human. Since then he’s been arguing for separating development schedule from release schedule — to finish development when it makes the most sense for development and to sell at the best time to maximize profits.
Next Generation had an interesting interview with him recently about this subject. He says:
“Showing previews and talking early about games is going the way of the dodo. How often do you see someone critiquing a movie before it’s finished? Never. Because the film people will never let you see it until it’s done. The previews that we have are endangering the credibility of the press and the credibility of the developers.”
About the advantages of this method:
“Once your game’s in the can it’s a guaranteed. You know that game’s going to ship. There’s no guessing, there’s no promising. You announce the date and then that’s the date. What about the CFO? Will they be happy? Reliable quarters? I think so. The retailers are happy. The consumers are happy.”