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Fact or Fiction: Are Huge Bugs at Launches Hurting Games the Rest of the Year?

Operation Sports

Fact or Fiction: Are Huge Bugs at Launches Hurting Games the Rest of the Year?

For what is the 1053th time (unofficial count), a game has launched with major bugs. And for the 1051st time, many of those bugs were quickly patched and the game is now in a more stable (albeit still not perfect) state.

You might be thinking about NBA 2K20 since that memory is freshest, but we’re referencing any number of games at this point over the last year.

With that in mind, we haven’t done a fact or fiction at OS in a long time and it’s time to resurrect this old favorite. The point of this game is simple: We give our writers a prompt, they answer fact or fiction and give a justification for why they said it. We try to make everyone answer the question but sometimes our writers are cagey (looks at Kevin Groves).

Today’s fact or fiction prompt is this:

The bugs in a game when it first launches, while annoying, are always hugely overblown and forgotten by gamers within a couple of weeks after the first patch that fixes them.

Matt Llewellyn

Fiction: To me that’s absolutely false. Coming off of a disastrous launch for NBA 2K20, I can tell you that the bugs and glitches in that game at launch were rage inducing. It’s one thing when a game crashes, it’s another entirely when you lose real money and a ton of progress time from early bugs. Another example for me is Red Dead Online. I’m one of those who got booted from the servers constantly. It got to the point that I just gave up.

It’s not an unreasonable expectation to have a working game after paying 60+ dollars for it. The fact that these games launch in such a bugged state means that we are essentially QA testing for the companies. Sure, they’re patching it but they should’ve spent the money to do their own QA rather than risk alienating their player base.

The worst part of many of these launches, 2K in particular, is that many of the glitches carry over year to year. Server disconnects are nothing new, as are problems buying VC. It seems not only are there legacy gameplay issues, but also legacy glitches as well. It’s time these companies did better. There’s nothing overblown about having your time and money wasted.

Raychel Sanner

Fact. People always freak out about huge bugs with games in the first few weeks after release — they always get fixed and in month two and three, gamers have settled in and things are fine. Yes, it is super annoying that release dates are just paid beta tests sometimes. Yes, it sucks that gamers have to go through this time and time again. No, this is something that will not change, unfortunately.

For now, games are a long-term investment that gamers make — everyone knows this and the industry does not have the incentives in place to create perfect games at launch right now. If you are after games without annoying bugs, you should avoid release dates and instead purchase games closer to the first regular season game in each sport’s schedule. Otherwise, regrettably, this is how it is. Sports games do this every year, then games like NBA 2K and Madden break their sales marks over and over. Rinse and repeat. Sooner or later there’ll be a launch so disastrous it ruins a game’s season for the masses, but we haven’t gotten there yet as most people still tend to still play out a season in sports games.

TJ Henderson

Fact. The thing about this is gamers tend to have a short memory on some things. The idea now appears to be that games used to come out polished before companies didn’t have the “incentive” not to polish them beforehand. This is just false. There were some games that were glitch-filled and there was not a thing you could do about it unless you created house rules or it was within the realm of a slider fix. There were also games that were busted out of the box and you literally had no choice but to wait a year, not a week.

By and large, the age of patches has been a fantastic thing, not just for fixing issues that plague a game but also for adding additional content. In an imperfect world, the idea of “just fix the game in QA” isn’t always possible, and no QA team will ever quite substitute for the meticulous nature of thousands playing it at home. This is especially true for annual sports titles that are bound to release dates whether they want to be there or not. And, be honest, is it more likely that a developer sent out a game “knowing” it was bad and hoped we wouldn’t notice? Or is it more likely that they’re things they hate seeing at launch and wish they had known about beforehand or just could not quite fix in time for launch?

I would hope it’s number two, as it is infinitely more desirable to build brand trust rather than destroy it.

Is it annoying? Sure. Is it overblown? Absolutely. Consider the alternative. In a month, no one will probably remember having their MyPlayer name goofed up in NBA 2K20. Would you rather forget that now, or forget it September 2020?

(Image above, via GamingWithOva) – Twitter

Kevin Groves

Fact Then Fiction. I’d say it’s somewhere in between. The video game community is known to overreact and there’s no phrase that’s more annoying than “the game is broken.” That’s the blatantly false part when it comes to releases. The true aspect is what Matt mentioned with legacy issues. With betas followed up by demos there is ample time (if the demo is released early enough) to test out these games, whether it be new features, servers, etc. And while gameplay issues tend to be harder to fix (as fixes can potentially have secondary side effects), there is time to hammer out issues with areas like presentation packages, uniforms/kits, sim engines and so on.

Putting the onus on the QA/QC team is unrealistic, even for publishers with budgets like those of EA and 2K considering the complexities of today’s games, and the short development cycle these games live on year to year. Putting the game in the community’s hands early can help alleviate this and some companies like Konami have done this with two demos (PES 2018). Let the community run the simulations required, collect good feedback and help create that bond with the community that shows you’re invested. It will also show you care about your consumers and are working together to create a product that both sides helped to create. Post release, developers HAVE to create clear and transparent lines of communication and set realistic expectations. Unfortunately, some things have to wait until next year, and while it sucks hearing that, I can live with an honest company telling me their reasons for that.

Joel Smith

False. I think this is dependent on genre of the game and an individual game’s community. For where we as OS writers sit, this is false for the sports gaming genre. Look at what happened with NBA 2K20‘s launch. Matt mentioned it above, but doubling down here, what happened within the first week of launch was absolutely insane in terms of glitches and bugs. Having dealt with several issues first-hand, I almost quit on playing NBA 2K20 altogether. It’s pretty evident that it was a big deal and not to be forgotten when #fixnba2k20 and #fireronnie2k became the top three Twitter trending hashtags within about an 8 hour window.

While I’m a little more understanding being part of the industry and knowing that a massive game will generally have some bugs at launch, the mass majority of the NBA 2K community didn’t care and held no punches in attacking one of the “faces” of the game, on top of the game itself. As Matt mentioned, it’s all about time and money. When people spend their money on a game, it’s an (un)realistic expectation that we receive said product in its final retail form with as little issues or bugs as possible. It’s also virtually impossible to get a game without some bugs at launch.

Regardless, when the bugs and issues are so egregious that you lose out on time, progress and money, then you can’t say that the issue is overblown. NBA 2K20‘s launch will unfortunately be an unforgettable example as to why this is false through and through. If FIFA, PES or Madden were to go through a tumultuous launch week like that of NBA 2K20, you can bet that those respective communities would lash out with poisonous venom as well.

Jeff Botkin

Fiction. When major sports titles are released with bugs, they are not only annoying but they also tend to give the gamer false hope that anything major was actually changed in the game. I’d be more willing to wait an additional month for the game to come out with the bugs addressed rather than play through seasons or franchises and have the game updated along the way. When new titles are out, I’m looking for a polished title that only needs tweaks here and there. But when the game releases with major bugs, I think players have to get extreme with game sliders and other settings just to make up for the issue at hand.

So what say you? Do you think bugs at launch of a sports game are overblown and don’t matter in the end, or do you see these as an existential crisis for the genre? Sound off in the comments!


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  1. Makes you wonder how we survived before the 2G day zero patch. Imagine if a patch fixed the money plays in Tecmo  Bowl or Baseball Stars or early Madden games. Most releases are betas and the devs just want to see what gamers are complaining about the loudest and then fix those first I think this speaks to the yearly cylce of most sports games and the pressure to meet deadlines. Makes the argument for bi-yearly releases ( but of course that will never happen)
    Not saying this would fix all problems. But I've wondered why these major sports titles only have one development team. Games like NBA 2K, Madden, FIFA are big enough that I'm shocked the publishers don't use alternating studios so they can release an annual title to full-fill their contracts, but essentially give each studio a 2 year development time.
    I wonder if they do it on purpose to hinder have cracks. I am one who now waits a few weeks before purchasing. I wish gaming sites would give fans reviews after patches to update us on if the patch made the game better or worse. I am still playing 19. I may not get 20 until next month.
    I'm a PC gamer first and foremost, although I love MLB The Show, but having said that I've all but given up on PC games because everything released is released half arsed nowadays. If games do come to full fruition it seems like it takes forever for that to happen and by the time it does I've already moved on to the next thing.
    I've been on the boards saying this till I'm blue in the face....
    But with 2k... the fact that team options STILL don't work as of this post nor are we even see able in the team/player option menu and the whole free agency period is bugged (things that worked fine last year) or the fact that team expansion with more than 2 custom teams ruins your save file (glitch is 3 years running btw) give me pause on when or if I actually move on from the previous years edition of 2k going forward. 2K20 myleague is basically the same mode as last year with more bugs but no one speaks up about it so the mode just sits there buggy as hell. This is not even accounting for the stuff that's been fixed so far.....
    I understand there must but an insane amount of stress and crunch when it comes to making sports games and software can be fickle but sometimes but it feels like they polish these games up just enough for reviewers that they know will only review the surface level. Like every year we see these reviews and it's like they play maybe an hour of each mode and they go  "yeah checks out   new feature is cool here's a 7/10 or whatever" all while not seeing game ruining bugs. Maybe it's the suits at the top putting the devs in rough spots like this demanding shiny marketable features trailers and good reviews at specific time of year but something needs to change next gen.
    I havent played a second of 2K20 but in general, the answer is yes.
    We can go on and on about gaming being a money making business with with micro-transactions and what not, but we're in an age where  this has become widely acceptable by the casual, pre-teen gamer who knows a band-aid that works half the time, is to follow, and we the end user can be half to blame for games being released with glaring issues because of patches.
    Tell me, 15-20 years ago, how many AAA titles across all genres needed patches on release? During the duration of a games release?
    Many have asked for 2K NBA to be an annual release, this should be taken on board imo.
    A game should ALWAYS work competently out of the box. Always. Otherwise you are ripping off the consumer's 60 bucks. No excuses.
    Now, I predate the  Net and there was nothing more frustrating than a broken game in the day, before patches were a remedy, But this "forget it, we'll patch it later" attitude is turning many older gamers like myself off to the entire pursuit. Have done more retro gaming last couple of years than ever, with many of my PS4 titles gathering dust. The worst patches are the ones that fundamentally alter the gameplay of what you purchased out of the box, in subservience to the UT/DD crowd. I'd like to see SDS go to gameplay tuners next year, somewhat like NHL has now, so I can avoid franchise-altering bad patches in the future. I'm not techy enough to know why games play differently online v. offline, but the  status quo is unacceptable.
    Can we stop acting like $60 for a video game is a lot of money? Because it isn't and hasn't been for 20+ years.

    Presumptuous. Glad $$ is no issue for you.
    I think these games just need to be released later rather than sooner.
    there is no reason to release NBA2k this early. the preseason doesn't even start till the beginning of October.
    and the early releases via EA access I think also hurts their product.
    Also theses companies need to invest more in SQA/ game testing. or rethink the way they test games.
    In addition, the issue with a number of bugs on release isnt just relegated to the gaming industry..
    The ease and the amount of time it takes to update a title has afforded these companies the ability to rethink in what conditions they release titles. it no longer takes alot of time to download and install patches.
    I think all of this is just part of the new norm in the software development cycle.
    I kind of feel this whole trend towards the day one patch and pushing out "broken" (I hate that term) games will eventually hurt the industry as a whole.
    There is a group of people out there, myself included, that are just done spending full price on games. I mean for me it is a question of why? Why should I buy a game at launch that may or may not work? Why should I by a game at launch that will need so many patches to be playable or will have so many patches that game play will change several times over a release. Why should I buy a game at launch that is just an updated roster or version of last years game? Why should I pay full price at launch for a game that will be anywhere from $10 to $20 cheaper in 3 to 4 months? Or even better yet lets wait for the Game of the Year addition that will have all of the DLC and Patches and be $40 dollars cheaper.
    I have not played Madden or NHL this generation. I have not played NBA since '17. I, personally, have seen no reason to spend $60 on any of them. I am a big MLB fan. But again next year I am not buying on launch. I really like '19 and by the All Star break it is $40 and it will have been patched 10 times.
    I understand folks and the need to have the newest, best and brightest. But there will come a breaking point where the market will not sustain itself and it will happen slowly and quietly. Because the majority of the market doesn't complain.
    They just stop buying.
    forgotten by gamers within a couple of weeks
    Whats forgotten is the game itself. Whats remembered is the disastrous launch and the lowered reputation of the developers. NBA 2k used to be a day one purchase, then every other year, to now, where itll be ignored until the next gen console releases can possibly redeem them.     
    Fact. This is a comment from me from another Madden 20 thread
    "And it just isn't Triple A sports titles like the increasingly underwhelming EA Tiburon Madden series, it's many many Triple A games across all genres that have become really bad products NOT worth anything near their price points at all due to poor release day quality - Mass Effect Andromeda, Star War Battlefront 1 & 2, Fallout '76, Anthem and many more...
    My three main issues of the modern day frustrating Triple A gaming business model:
    1 - Microtransactions, loot crate & loot box for all genres: The pay to play (cosmetic or not) gaming "surprise mechanics" features (aka gambling when it comes to the Ultimate modes for sports titles). No need to expound on this issue, if you are a gamer you know what's been going on with this for years now and how sports titles influenced this controversial topic ( I think UEFA Soccer was the first to try this back in 2005 under current EA CEO Andrew Wilson).
    2 - Exclusive License: Yeah, the WWNFL and EA have been in bed with their Madden football franchise for years with no end in sight, and the football gaming community has suffered for it. Pretty simple issue here, lack of competition breeds complacency from developers that have a product which is more ingrained pop culture hype and advertising than actual innovation. This has been the norm for EA's Madden series since 2006.
    *Basically there has been a whole generation that has only known ONE football videogame, but I loved the halcyon days of reading Electronic Gaming Monthly around August for all the upcoming seasons football gaming offerings, pouring over reviews of Madden, 2K, 989 Sports' Gameday series, NFL Fever and Tecmo, figuring out which ones to rent from Blockbuster to try out before purchasing 1 or 2 for the season to play.
    3 - The Internet & "Patch Development": At first being able to play online for any game genre was super fun if only annoying when little brats were screaming in your headset during Halo matches, but then the dreaded "Patch Development" model for games has become en vouge the past several years. It was sold as a positive, "always online to improve the gamers experience", but the reality is the purchasing public are now the game testers. As Triple A titles constantly release half baked, underdeveloped products, with far more gltiches, bugs, and in some cases far less actual good content (with promises to release the good stuff later on but please still drop $60 to $100 now!).
    I recall just 10 years ago Triple A games released under big publishers had very few issues, and lots of bang for your buck for the well made titles. Now that is getting increasingly rare (for console games especially), with only Rockstars Red Dead Redemption 2 main single player story being an actual great, day one release product that I can, and have, poured hours and hours into it's original $60.00 price point for the past year."
    My utopia scenario if this is now the norm for gaming is they should be free to play "ala carte" style options on release day. Example: the base game should have two (base being $20 and under maybe) options and branch off from there, if I wanna play an Ultimate Team style online 24/7 mode for any sport title I pay "x" amount of dollars and that's that. If I'm a franchise mode single player sports gamer I pay "x" amount for that option. If I wanna play an online/multiplayer mode only for Red Dead 2 I only pay "x" amount and don't get any single player story options at all. Then continue to improve said versions for these genres during the games 1 or 2 year lifecycles with the specific gamer supporting the CHOICE of how he CHOOSES to play and support said game.
    But yeah, in short, I hate modern day game "patch development" business model, been way more disappointed than satisfied no matter what genre of game.
    A game should ALWAYS work competently out of the box. Always. Otherwise you are ripping off the consumer's 60 bucks. No excuses.
    Now, I predate the* Net and there was nothing more frustrating than a broken game in the day, before patches were a remedy, But this "forget it, we'll patch it later" attitude is turning many older gamers like myself off to the entire pursuit. Have done more retro gaming last couple of years than ever, with many of my PS4 titles gathering dust. The worst patches are the ones that fundamentally alter the gameplay of what you purchased out of the box, in subservience to the UT/DD crowd. I'd like to see SDS go to gameplay tuners next year, somewhat like NHL has now, so I can avoid franchise-altering bad patches in the future. I'm not techy enough to know why games play differently online v. offline, but the* status quo is unacceptable.

    100% agree. Been going alot more retro for gaming myself, as the "patch product development" era is complete poo to me. I think the only game I'm truly looking forward too isn't coming out until April 2020, CD Projekt's Cyberpunk 2077, as I feel they have released really good RPG game products (Witcher series) for awhile now and I trust Cyberpunk 2077 will be made well, right out of the box, as well as later on for the duration of it's lifecycle.

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