Are Publishers Encouraging Piracy with their Shifting Quality Control?

The face of gaming has changed over recent years which has meant many big and small video game releases are running into time constraint problems during development resulting in games being sold in an unfinished state. Most recently it has been well documented that some high profile products coming from Ubisoft’s camp in particular aren’t as polished as expected for the busy and competitive holiday season period. With two AAA games hitting markets within a week of one another, questions have been asked about the company’s motives and how it could sanction the release of its games despite the obvious glaring issues they have had on both consoles and PC. Some consumers have questioned the validity of their quality assurance teams resulting in a tarnishing of consumer confidence in future products despite an apology and offer of free downloadable content as compensation.

Assassin’s Creed Unity and Far Cry 4 have both run poorly on a number of PC configurations, yet on one hand some are suggesting there are no issues, and on the other, reports of the games running badly or not at all. It’s perfectly feasible for these two perspectives to co-exist as PC gaming, unlike Consoles, is filled with a myriad of parameters considering the lack of uniformity across systems. However, there’s a growing sentiment born from the widespread complaints, that games are being released knowingly in an unfinished state to be fixed later to meet a strict Publisher deadline. There’s even suggestion that early adopters are unwittingly being used as beta testers to help fix the games.

 

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In defence of the developers, it’s obvious no amounts of in-house testing can mimic the sheer numbers of variants involved in releasing a product into the wild (and this is essentially where beta tests can assist greatly), and so problems are always going to occur, but when reports are as widespread as they have been and in some cases mirrored on the more uniform console versions of the same games, it’s hard to harbour much sympathy towards the publishers pulling the strings.

From a PC perspective where illegally downloading games is rife and easily accessible for the determined, the current state of play suggests that a number of consumers are potentially going to (more than ever) want to try a product before they part with any cash. In the absence of the declining traditional demo, the only option to accomplish this is to visit one of the many file sharing websites and download the game to see how it runs. This practice happens to also be illegal regardless of the motives behind it, yet perpetrators are rarely punished. In an age of digital distribution where faulty products cannot easily be returned once purchased, it’s perhaps a reasonable assertion to make considering the circumstances.

 

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So where does the toying with consumer confidence and expectation end? Gamers can no longer be assured a product will work (as advertised) once paid for on release. Ubisoft in particular has been obliging in keeping its loyal participants up-to-speed on updates and fixes to problems which is commendable, however, one week, two weeks after launch and with problems still persisting in their games is rather damaging to its image. Publishers already have the money in the bank leaving many at the mercy of their priorities and allocated resources in the hope the fixes are eventually forthcoming. This relationship in itself is not an ideal and is obviously going to have an effect on consumer purchasing habits if it continues to gain momentum. From a consumer perspective, the poor quality control on these highly anticipated releases could result in some opting to delay buying games at launch.

 

Unfinished games releasing into the wild have become a widespread epidemic which has gained traction through the use of digital mediums providing the cushioning back-up for Publishers to solve problems post-launch. At the same time, the digital medium has also been exploited by the consumer where some will undoubtedly resort to the aforementioned nefarious means to try out games before they buy them. In these instances bar waiting for reviews and gaming news to spill the beans, gamers downloading games illegally as a means of testing is an unfortunate by-product of current rogue releases. Unfortunately it appears the publisher quality controls allowing these unfinished games being released could potentially fuel the dark clouds of piracy which is ironic considering the massive amounts of resources spent in trying to combat it.

Written by: Rob Cram

Rob Cram has hundreds of video game reviews, thousands of articles under his belt with years of experience in gaming and tech. He aims to remain fair and free from publisher/developer influence. With his extensive knowledge, feels his gaming opinions are valid and worth sharing. Agreement with his views are entirely optional. He might have a bias towards cyberpunk.

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