The pressure to constantly update games is pushing the industry to a breaking point

Jody Macgregor of PC Gamer published a great opinion piece on the changing nature of gaming and its effect on the people developing the games. We’ve discussed the issue of crunch in another thread but I thought that this article raises enough decent points to warrant its own discussion.

Here’s the article and some quotes taken from it for those TL:DR people.

The pressure to constantly update games is pushing the industry to a breaking point

What’s changed is that triple-A games can no longer be patched by a skeleton staff after their release. Nowadays players demand big updates, and games have trained them to expect those updates to be frequent. First there were season passes and limited-duration events, and now live games are so permanently in a state of development there’s no breather just because the game’s shipped.

As an extreme example there’s Fortnite, which receives weekly patches and fortnightly updates. A recent investigation published by Polygon revealed the consequence of that—employees working 70-hour or even 100-hour weeks. “The biggest problem is that we’re patching all the time,” one employee said. If something goes wrong in one of the regular updates, like a weapon breaking, there’s no option to take time fixing it. “It has to be fixed immediately,” they said, “and all the while, we’re still working on next week’s patch. It’s brutal.”

It hasn’t always been like this. There was a time when Team Fortress 2 was the only game in your library that was always in the queue for an update.

I actually remember those days when it was just TF2 updating all the time.

Other multiplayer shooters and MOBAs have had to keep up, and the expectations of those free-to-play games have largely been carried over to the likes of Destiny and The Division 2.

For a counter-example, there’s Apex Legends. A game in the same genre as Fortnite, one that couldn’t be any more “game as a service” unless it had a Marvel movie tie-in event. And yet, creators Respawn responded to a remarkably successful launch by saying they weren’t going to change their plans and were in fact happy to update it slowly…

And what’s been the reaction to this sensible approach? Analyzing the reduction in its Twitch viewership and dozens of YouTube videos declaring that four-months-old Apex Legends is dying.

Interesting to see how this shift has also affect streamers, although you can’t really feel too sorry for the ones pulling in millions.

A knock-on effect of the games industry’s focus on maintaining momentum, and encouraging players to keep up with them, is that even streamers are effectively crunching. Twitch streamers live by their numbers, and when they step away from the computer those numbers drop immediately.

I thought that the following was a very insightful observation:

The obsession with momentum hasn’t just changed how games are made; it’s changed how we perceive them, how we talk about them, and how they’re designed.

It’s changed how we perceive them because accounts with thousands of hours of playtime are investments , and a disappointing update (or no updates at all) can seem like a hit to the value of that investment. We’ve put in the hours and we feel we deserve to be rewarded for that—when the latest patch doesn’t fix the bug we saw or change the ability we keep getting killed by, it makes it plain how one-sided the relationship is. It’s an absurd way to think but that’s what sunk costs do to us.

When you get a chance have a look at the full article and post your thoughts here.

I feel that this is a problem created by the publishers in their desire for MOAR PROFITS! In many ways they created the ravenous consumer gamer monster that exists today and their own workers are the sacrifices to keep that hungry beast appeased.


^ This. They want the benefits of a “live service” game without spending the required amount on the resources to run a live service game. Legacy thinking applied to a new paradigm.

Companies that have executed this successfully — Blizzard, Bungie, CD Projekt, Digital Extremes — don’t just have skeleton staff working on updates.

It reminds me of the gold rush in the early 2000s where everyone was trying make a hit MMO and couldn’t unseat World of WarCraft. EVE and Guild Wars managed to hold their own, though.

1 Like

Developers must strike then or something. Its unsustainable.

Ya I think there is increasing movement towards unionising.

that will awesome for the developers not so much for everyone else. As a software developer i wish it could happen like now. :smiley: but as a gamer not so much. the problem I think is the publishers are trying to hard to get every penny out of all there IP to the point where there IP is loosing value.

For example when Call of Duty started to do a yearly release. I am no longer excited to see a new one. and I think modern warfare was a awesome game.