While we use the term 'new generation' to define the latest game consoles from Sony and Microsoft (let's not forget Nintendo, just for the fans), it seems a little vague on what we should expect of this pseudo-revolution.
One thing seems unanimous when speaking of this generation of gaming; the online play and social should now be an integral part of the new offerings of games. Although the concept has been established for several years, is the technology sufficient to meet the new expectations of today new-gen players?
It became almost commonplace to see video game launches botched by technical problems; the impossibilities to play the game or even see redesigns and deactivations of options. While developers should always deliver the best possible gaming experience, it looks like it's now a matter of making the game work before offering a wider experience.
The first example that comes to mind of integrating the massively multiplayer at the heart of its gameplay and game suffering from severe problems at its launch is Diablo 3 by Blizzard (PC). Released in 2012, Diablo 3 has been one of the first victims to be heavily criticized for its botched launch. After more than a week, players were still unable to connect to Battle.net servers, making the player unable to play even a solo game! Although things have since been restored, for several weeks following the launch, Blizzard servers have seen thousands of players unable to connect or getting disconected. Even today, more than 2 years after the release date, we can still see some disconnection happening once in a while.
As if between rivals one couldn't learn from competitors mistakes, Electronic Art deserves an award when talking of failed launches. In early 2013, EA released the highly anticipated management game Sim City 5 (PC) and see at the same time one of the worst video game launch to date. Sim City is ambitious and use the power of the cloud to generate part of the artificial intelligence of the core game.
Interesting idea, but what happens when hundreds of thousands of players connects? The game was impossible to play for several weeks. To resolve the problem, several options were disabled and removed from the game. Eventually when the player finally was able to play, players have found to their dismay that the available maps area was 2 to 5 times smaller than its predecessor. Unable to expand the construction zone is directly related to the inability of Electronic Art servers to perform more calculation. (well so they told..)
Sim City 5 is by memory of man, the only game to have seen his review score revised downwards after its launch. Game review site Polygon first published a very favorable review of 9.5/10, to finally revise their review three times to finish at 4/10. If this site is not known for its unbiased reviews, it is still a farily real representation of what happened to Sim City 5. With a MetaScore of 64 and a player critic of 22%, the idea of "cloud gaming" for Sim City has proved to be a huge error.
More recently on console and PC, the game Battlefield 4 from Electronic Art also saw a lot of server problem. In addition to being a horrible bugged game, servers responsible for the online part of the game have had their share of the problem for several weeks, and even months!
The highly anticipated Grand Theft Auto 5 Online, add-on to the great open world game from RockStars released on Xbox 360 and PS3, also underwent a huge server load making erratic gaming for a few days.
Finally the last example took place last week while the (long) awaited DriveClub by Evolution Studio (Ps4) suffered the same story once again. The game makes part of online and social gaming the core of his experience.
Evolution Studio was expected to release a free version to all PS+ members (a glorified demo for those that think the full game is free), but this version was postponed to an unknown date to allow player that paid for the game to connect to servers.
Even today, a week after the official launch of DriveClub, connecting to their servers is a matter of luck. If the game eventually succeeds to connect automatically, several options are still disabled to help servers that clearly didn't expect that much player on day one.
This is just some examples of technical problem that the 'new generation' of games has had to face. With a more and more focus on massive online gaming and the growing popularity of video games, do you believe that technology and game studios will be able to offer an gaming experience the players deserve on day one? We can only hope, but one thing is sure: we won't be surprised to see the list of botched launches to expand in the next year.