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There's No Longer a Reason to Buy Sports Games on Day One Stuck
Posted on July 24, 2011 at 01:03 AM.

Many of you that have read my blog over the past 3 years know that I'm a man who loves to spot trends and then extrapolate what they mean into the future. I love to see where our endlessly exciting and hugely creative industry is going in the future while also enjoying what we have to offer in the present.

One of the trends I became very worried even before my time here at Operation Sports was the advent and pursuit of patches in console gaming. Everyone who's anyone who remembers the hey-day of PC gaming will remember what happened at the apex of that generation -- the typical mantra was, "only fools buy a game on launch day."

Well congratulations longtime console gamers (and old PC diehards), you've now gotten your wish -- you just didn't know you were wishing for it.

PC Gaming is back, it is just on a console.

"Don't be spun, avoid the dry run, never buy a sports game on day one, else you'll never have any fun."

It has really gotten to this point. Every sports game launches with a variety of bugs which can ruin the experience in 2011. No title is immune, and depending on how careless a developer is -- the bugs can run from annoying to downright "why is this defective piece of crap on store shelves at $60?" infuriating.

Given that every sports game launches before the official sport goes in season -- there is literally no reason for you to buy a game on launch day anymore. Games are often shipped with a variety of bugs, outdated rosters, and oftentimes you pay $60 for a game which might just fall in price by the time the kinks are worked out.

The Good Ol' Broken Gridiron

Let's take NCAA Football 12 for example.

NCAA could be a great game. It could feature potentially great gameplay. It could have an incredibly deep and rich experience in Dynasty and Road to Glory mode.

So long as a patch addresses the coulds mentioned above.

And a patch probably will. And NCAA will probably be a great game worthy of the high praise many have given it.

But right now, at this point, there's no reason to buy NCAA.

There won't be a compelling reason to buy Madden on August 30 either.

For that matter, there won't even be a really good argument for buying NBA 2K12 on October 4 as well.

Not until the patches are out and the game actually works as intended. It is a good thing the automobile industry doesn't work like video games, we'd all be driving potentially great cars right up until the engine quit working or the air conditioning was found to actually never blow cold air (a real travesty given the current heat wave I might add).

And yes, I know there's a lot of irony in that previous statement, especially if you've bought American.

Perhaps we can give games potential ratings?

And let's not even begin to talk about how flummoxed game reviewers are these days (much less their editors).

What is there to do? Wait a month before giving a likely still incomplete game a review? What about reviewing a game on day one and completely missing the fact the game is likely broken and the majority of your readers are going to be ticked off about said game?

Shoot here at Operation Sports, we give games a week before issuing a score and many of the biggest bugs appeared after we released the review of NCAA Football 12. Is there any justice in this world?

And the thinking man would be right, there is nothing you can do about this quandary. It is a darned if you do and darned if you don't kind of situation where the only perfect answer is that there isn't one.

But perhaps a small disclaimer on reviews going forward that bugs can and will appear that will affect the experience, or perhaps the experience is different for different people, or maybe we can just start throwing a dart at a score sheet on the wall and giving a game a new score each day until it is fully patched.

There's no real answer here.

The Blame Game

But really, who is to blame here?

You see, PC Developers back in the day had a very convenient excuse about PC Hardware being so various, with endless combinations to test for. There was literally no way to ship a game without a few bugs.

Consumers, the ones who didn't leave for the console where games were finished and working properly, understood.

Fast forward to the bright and shiny days of console gaming -- where bugs don't occur at launch and where the worst of PC Gaming (unfinished games) was left in the 90s -- or not.

For the amount of bugs to be getting through the cracks for so many different titles at each studio lends me to believe sports games really can't be developed in a year. Yet, they can't be profitable unless they're developed each year on the nose.

It is a weird catch-22 I know.

We will never know if quality assurance (aka the video game testers) budgets have been cut and there simply isn't as much testing going on these days, but we do know whatever is being done is no longer effective.

And to the consumer, that is all that matters.

So What Can You Do?

So the real question is, "What can I do about this travesty?"

Well short of not buying sports games on launch day, nothing.

This is the United States of America and money talks. If Madden were to see a huge dip in launch day sales, the panic button would be pushed and things reexamined. Ditto for NBA 2K, MLB 2K, NCAA Football, NHL, etc. You want to see real change in the products you buy? Then don't buy them.

But let's be realistic, unless you decide to start a few viral campaigns with a compelling message which people will believe in (which is stronger than their desire to play Madden on August 30), this effort is doomed to failure in achieving your goals of wide ranging changes.

The rest of your options begin to get rather limited after that. You can complain on message boards, but most places which like to keep law and order (and civil discussion) will probably send you on your way if you really say what's on your mind. You can write angry letters, but short of getting a refund you probably won't get too far there as just one person in a sea of very willing customers.

You can, however, just choose to be wise and not buy a game at launch. Be patient, be calm, and just wait things out before diving in. Compulsive buying of things we really don't need is an issue larger than what I can write about here on Operation Sports -- but I can say that if you want to see a change, sometimes the best place to start is with yourself.

Maybe more will read this and follow you. Maybe they won't.

But at least for a short time, you'll feel like you beat the man.

And there's no price you can put on that.
Comments
# 1 Nauroa @ Jul 24
Haha. I remember finding this bug in Madden 10 as well. Looks ridiculous.
 
# 2 chi_hawks @ Jul 24
Well put. My new routine may be to wait til the first week of September to buy the game, right when college football actually starts.

Makes me wonder, back with NCAA 02-06, were there not major bugs like this? I can remember having some of the best dyanasties ever with those games, and yes they had issues, but I don't remember them having as many little bugs as today's games do. Guessing this is due to the complexity of the new systems and the new logic they are building?
 
# 3 chivs890 @ Jul 24
Very good article.

Some games you just know will have a ton of bugs on release i.e. Madden, NCAA,.., and I just don't buy them on release as I'm simply not stupid enough to buy a broken product.
But as a long time FIFA player, I have never encountered any major bugs at all in it, and the patches often just fix little things like tweaking some under the hood stuff, the gameplay is usually solid, and I am willing to buy that game on release because of its excellent track record.
 
# 4 NYYankees42 @ Jul 24
I agree with your points, waiting for a patch to fix game killing bugs is annoying especially if you paid 60 bucks. I know that the only reason i got ncaa 12 release day is because i had amazon credit and they were offering a 20 dollar gift card, so i got it for a better price than i if i waited a month or two. But if it wasnt for this i usually like to wait.
 
# 5 LambertandHam @ Jul 24
This bug is still in the game?

Oh well, it gives me a chance to put this on while watching the video again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MK6TXMsvgQg
 
# 6 ultralow36 @ Jul 24
well it really depends on if said bugs hurt the player.....take ncaa some dont care about names and stuff,,,take mlb the show 11 where all the top players became free agents thats a killer for some,,,Now nba 2k few years back where you could shoot the ball all day without inbounding it.....killer
 
# 7 TarHeelPhenom @ Jul 24
Looks like a typical SEC game to me lol!!!
 
# 8 Step2001 @ Jul 24
Only reason to get a game at launch is based on getting a deal. Madden 12 I am getting on launch on a deal that saves me money.

After that, I have been saying this all along. These games need to be patched at least 2 times, maybe a 3rd! Pushing back your intentions of starting a Franchise or Dynasty!

It's all good! I'm getting comfortable playing NCAA 12 with the "Play Now" games! Will do the same with Madden!

Never started a Franchise in Madden until December/January the last two years. Played great!

It's nothing to get upset about, because everyone knows about the patching that's done to these new games.
 
# 9 jaa1980 @ Jul 24
I wrote this blog back in April, along same lines....................

Release is to Beta, as Patched is to Final?
Posted on April 12, 2011 at 11:54 PM. (1)

I am here to start a Revolution of sorts!!

.......or maybe just fed up with current sports gaming Beta releases. You know what I am talking about; the game releases, we all go through "sliderphobia", wonder why stuff so apparent is broken or missing, and when we are about to give up, the Golden nugget is given, "The Patch". Then back to the drawing board to hopefully have a pleasure filled gaming experience? or not. The hours I have wasted in my life trying to make games more realistic; or follow people on these boards trying to make the games feel more realistic; or wondering why these developers could miss such obvious problems? Only to give up and then have a promised patch possibly fix all, or maybe nothing. This year alone, hmmmm, let's see: NCAA, Madden, NBA 2k, MLB 2K, TW12, NHL, NASCAR. Let's see how these games ended up in my library:

NCAA - picked up day 1, wasted a few months on patches to fix problems, only to have sliders rebuilt after each one dropped, finally got a decent game out of it.
MADDEN - same thing, picked up day 1, few months hoping patches would fix glaring issues, only for them to not, traded it towards another sports title, FIRST TIME EVER.
NBA 2K - Late to this party, madden was traded towards, patches already dropped, best gaming experience I have ever had.
MLB 2K - picked up day 1, fun game, but several things broken keeping from doing my franchise, still waiting on patches.
NASCAR - picked up day 1, good racing, but many problems with this one, waiting on patch until play again.
NHL - picked up recently, after patches already dropped, another fun game experience.
PGA Tiger Woods - picked up this week, very fun game, but with a few key things keeping it from being great....pin placements, no playoffs, etc. who knows if a patch will address?

My point here is very simple, see the trend, all the games have issues on release, in some cases numerous, and yet the only games I have really enjoyed right at purchase are the ones I picked up later, after the patches had already dropped. I am not questioning if the games ever get fixed or if the game plays great afterwards; I am starting a new revolution, maybe just mine, but a revolution to not buy games on release anymore, not until they have been patched, and in my opinion, finally "FINAL". NBA 2K and NHL are great games because I could pick them up and play; since all the patches were already out. Just like I am sure MLB 2K, TW, and NASCAR will be better after their patches drop, I hope. If I waited for patches for Madden and NCAA to drop before purchasing; and waited to see what everyone is saying on a consistent basis, yay or nay, then I would of enjoyed NCAA from the get go and never purchased Madden.

So I am breaking the addiction of buying sports games on release; and letting everyone else Beta test the game for me, before making my final decision to purchase? or not to purchase?

Thanks to everyone for participating in my Total Sports Gaming Beta Test!!!
 
# 10 jaosming @ Jul 24
Quote:
You see, PC Developers back in the day had a very convenient excuse about PC Hardware being so various, with endless combinations to test for. There was literally no way to ship a game without a few bugs.
Those "bugs" for the "unfinished" PC games were more about visual/performance issues that have to account for different video cards and memory rather than a gameplay bug like your link.

If there was a glitch like this in the PC version of Madden XX, it would have shown up in the PS2 and Xbox version as well.
 
# 11 Louielouie3 @ Jul 24
NASCAR The Game 2011 will probably be the reason I don't purchase sports games, heck almost any game, day one anymore. I bought NTG 2011 a couple days after launch and the patch has just been released now which makes the game much more enjoyable offline from what I'm hearing. To top it off, I can find it now almost 50% the price used when it was new.

I usually wait a while before picking up other sports games, but I was quick with NASCAR The Game 2011. Next time I'm willing to wait.
 
# 12 DetroitStyle @ Jul 24
Quote:
But let's be realistic, unless you decide to start a few viral campaigns with a compelling message which people will believe in (which is stronger than their desire to play Madden on August 30), this effort is doomed to failure in achieving your goals of wide ranging changes.
What if OS sponsored this campaign for Madden? Nothing would rattle more cages than that. Such a large community making a bold statement to not just Madden developers but a shot across the bow to ALL other developers. Even if sales didn't take a huge dip, they would stand up and take notice.

I think this article was pretty bold considering I thought OS was leaning toward a "developers give us goodies so we'll play nice" attitude but I'd like to see OS go a little further.
 
# 13 Bull_Dozer @ Jul 24
Ha! I'm gonna call that one Mosh Pit Bug.
 
# 14 jyoung @ Jul 24
I saw that bug the other day, and yes, the Benny Hill theme is the first thing that came to mind.
 
# 15 elementz09 @ Jul 24
Quote:
The rest of your options begin to get rather limited after that. You can complain on message boards, but most places which like to keep law and order (and civil discussion) will probably send you on your way if you really say what's on your mind. You can write angry letters, but short of getting a refund you probably won't get too far there as just one person in a sea of very willing customers.
I can relate to this point really because if you look at the sports industry over the last 6-7 years, you should notice that there isn't any competition for these developers to put the pressure on them for making a better game. NCAA 12 doesn't have a competitor, neither does Madden. That is what made gaming that much more enjoyable back in the 90s era because you had options to choose from.

For example, I am a music artist (www.soundcloud.com/elementzemcee) and I also have a B.A. in Music Business. Over the last decade (and maybe even more) the music industry has suffered massive amounts of money due to illegal downloading and such. But instead of coming up with a strategy to work alongside it, the bigger labels are forced to swallow up their subsidiary labels who were more efficient in the "creative" process of how music sounded and critiqued. But because they don't exist anymore, more of the music you hear nowadays is very much sub par to what I grew up to because it's not about the quality as much as it is about the quantity of units or singles sold, in which is what the BIG labels only concern is. An album's promotion used to be about the 6-month or 1 year window, but now the big thing is "first week sales" and that often will determine the success or failure of an artists' career.

Same thing or very similar issue with the gaming industry. Which is why sports games are released so far before the start of the season because they try to get a jump on the sales of the game regardless if the game is 100% finished or not. And they probably don't have a big enough budget to get a quality game tester (i.e. A&R/Artist Development in the music industry) and therefore you get half the quality of what it could've been if more time was taken into building a better game.
 

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