One of the least welcome words to the common gamer has struck twice in two months for Grand Theft Auto V: delayed. With the news that the PC version of GTA V is delayed yet again, Grand Theft Auto joins a list of other A-list games to be pushed back from their initial release date. Again.
Why is this, though? Should consumers be worried that these games are in trouble of being lackluster upon their eventual release?
The reasons for delaying Grand Theft Auto V on PC again are simple. According to Rockstar Games, Grand Theft Auto V has been pushed back in order for the developer to fully polish and make the PC version the best yet. This is a noble thing for consumers, especially with the state many games released last year. However, developers seem to be too hasty when setting release dates.
The reason why developers and publishers can be so flippant with a consumer is easy to surmise: they already have our money. Pre-orders for games are at an all-time high for most games, and even with a game such as Grand Theft Auto V and all the accolades surrounding the game, this is another example of why buying an unfinished product should never be a thing we as consumers do.
When Grand Theft Auto V for PC was delayed the first time, one of the ways Rockstar tried to make amends for the delay was to offer a free game to those who pre-ordered Grand Theft Auto on their website. Instead of giving players extras in the game as a bonus (which was happening, regardless of a delay), like CD Projekt Red is doing with their perpetually-delayed game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Rockstar was actually asking the consumer to purchase the delayed game. Another release date was set and then pushed back, with Rockstar giving Grand Theft Auto V PC gamers free in-game money to alleviate the angst towards the developer.
Pre-ordering a game back in the day when digital releases were not even a thing people were thinking of made some sense. A major game would release and if you didn't "lock down your copy," you might get to your local game store and find that it was sold out. However, in today's climate, and especially on PC where digital distribution is King, the idea of pre-ordering digital content is downright archaic, and it's something developers are hoping you'll do. With many of the sales already taking place before the release of the game, there really isn't as much pressure on the developer to hit a target date. If Grand Theft Auto didn't already have likely hundreds of thousands of pre-orders, the March 24 street date would've looked great to publisher 2K as a way to boost quarterly earnings. Instead, since they already have our money, making sure Grand Theft Auto V is done on time isn't as big of an issue as it was before.
Hiding behind words such as "polish" and "getting it right," game developers have deflected criticism of even the most ardent consumers. However, even with a game such as Grand Theft Auto V, those words only go so far before they start to sound like recycled "PR" jargon. It's the right thing to do for a developer to make sure the game works upon release, but then don't set the date till you're completely sure it'll be ready.
If consumers want actual change to occur in the industry, especially when it comes to the publisher-end user relationship, one of the ways this will occur is if we stop perpetuating the practices that cause these issues. Will Grand Theft Auto V for PC be great? Rockstar's track record as a developer should hint at nothing less. But if you were going to purchase the game already, chances are you were going to regardless of the delay. Don't buy an unfinished product no matter how great Grand Theft Auto V has been. Save your money and send a message to even the most respected of game companies that consumers won't be on the hook any longer, no matter how many fictitious dollars they may throw our way.
The PC version of Grand Theft Auto V is set to be the best yet, but the delays make it even harder to get excited for a game that initially released two years ago. Hopefully Rockstar can release GTA V on time in April and consumers can stop holding an IOU for a game and start actually playing it.
[Images via Rockstar Games]