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  • Why games are released early

    Originally, I had written the below message in response to a thread on the BF2 forums regarding the next patch for that game. However, I felt it was probably more relevant for a general forum.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Until I started investing in the stock market, specifically investing in game publishing companies, I never understood why and was always frustrated when, PC games are released pre-maturely and often with far too many bugs. Now I undertand the "why" (though my "frustration" remains.)

    Beyond the technical challenges of designing a game for 10 million different PC configurations (which is a legitimate reason) the major reason is, rightly or wrongly, game publishers are much more focused on fiscal quarter reporting to investors and meeting their guidance as far as earnings per share, than they are with game bugs and an incomplete product. That is why many games are released in such a poor state.

    Publically traded publishers are more concerned about meeting the stock market's expectations and exceeding them, then they are about the nuts and bolts of the products gameplay (bugs), player reaction or even gaming media reviews. These publishers are required to report every 4 months their earnings and a bad report caused by the delay of a game release can lose millions and millions of dollars for not only their investors, but also many of the executives in the company that own shares and whose bonuses are tied to stock performance.

    This is more true with an established franchise like Battle Field 2 than it would be with a new intellectual property (IP), since a publisher knows that a golden franchise like Battlefield will sell volumes upon release buggy and unfinished or not. However, the sales of a totally new IP are much more dependent upon reviews and community reaction.

    I could elaborate further, but this is the gist of it.

    Please don't take this post as an attempt to justify buggy, pre-maturely released games - see it more as an effort to shed light on the problem for those of you who (like me once), have always been dumbfounded with why it happens.

    Squad Support Specialist
    Spec Ops Saboteur Extraordinaire


    "Fools say that they learn by experience. I prefer to profit by others experience"- Otto Von Bismarck

  • #2
    Re: Why games are released early

    Originally posted by Mferrulo
    Until I started investing in the stock market, specifically investing in game publishing companies, I never understood why and was always frustrated when, PC games are released pre-maturely and often with far too many bugs. Now I undertand the "why" (though my "frustration" remains.)

    Beyond the technical challenges of designing a game for 10 million different PC configurations (which is a legitimate reason) the major reason is, rightly or wrongly, game publishers are much more focused on fiscal quarter reporting to investors and meeting their guidance as far as earnings per share, than they are with game bugs and an incomplete product. That is why many games are released in such a poor state.
    This is well known. For the publicly traded game deveopers and publishers, they have to meet their targets, or investors get their panties in a bunch. Game companies are not a place for an average investor: they are long-haul plays, which most investors do not have the stomach for.

    Porfolio managers/Analysts jump on stocks like EA because they need a big stock for their entertainment/software portfolio, so that puts pressure on the CEO to make sure that the company gets there. If the portfolio manager of Fidelity Tech or Merrill's Entertainment are asking why aren't you going to hit the target, the floor show better be damn good.

    Also, GUIDANCE is not a good thing. Companies as for guidance when there is a chance that the firm may not meet original Street estimates. Their brokers come in and give strategic help, and help set a more realistic target.

    Publically traded publishers are more concerned about meeting the stock market's expectations and exceeding them, then they are about the nuts and bolts of the products gameplay (bugs), player reaction or even gaming media reviews.
    This is the same for any publicly traded company.

    These publishers are required to report every 4 months their earnings and a bad report caused by the delay of a game release can lose millions and millions of dollars for not only their investors, but also many of the executives in the company that own shares and whose bonuses are tied to stock performance.
    It's not as simple as that. All major companies that are publicly traded tie CEO performance incentives to the stock performance.

    Everyone has to report every 3 months (per quarter), that's true, but game companies are more scrutinized because of the potential for failure. The products are complex, take time to develop, and may never see a profit. So analysts and portfolio managers watch them like a hawk.

    Major game companies can weather a delay, mostly because they have 4-5 major titles in development at any time. One missed title won't impact them as much on a revenue basis.

    Smaller companies do not have that luxury.

    This is more true with an established franchise like Battle Field 2 than it would be with a new intellectual property (IP), since a publisher knows that a golden franchise like Battlefield will sell volumes upon release buggy and unfinished or not. However, the sales of a totally new IP are much more dependent upon reviews and community reaction.
    Good enough is all that is required: ask GM, Microsoft, etc...buyers do not require perfection, they require an adequate return usage for their money. If perfection were the target, we'd see companies such as these become bargain market vendors, and quality driven firms as market leaders.

    A quick quiz:

    Which is a higher quality Operating System: Apple or Microsoft?
    Which is a higher quality Car: BMW or GM?

    According to overall market share, good enough is enough.

    Battlefield 2 is good enough-stable for most, playable by most, and there aren't many show stopping bugs. The fit and finsh could be better (like the FF bug), but that's something that can be patched, along with many of the hardware issues. And it sold like crazy.

    SWAT 4, which is a superior game in every sense, both in terms of code, and in terms of finish, but did not catch on. Who knows what Sierra/VU will do with the IP now. It's a niche title, I guess.

    I don't know any serious gamer that believes reviews, but then, I don't think serious gamers are driving sales.

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