This is a question I feel is more prevalent now in the games industry. It is not a question of when the game will launch, but when the game is at a state that should've been at launch. It isn't a question of if I should pre-order, but if I should buy the game within the year it has released. And I am not saying a game should have all of the content in the game at day one, but that their should be enough content on day one to make its price worth it.
About a month ago from this blog release, Sea of Thieves released to mediocre reviews. Why? The game was lacking content at launch, and the lack of content was driving players away, and a lack of players means less encounters on the high seas. When these reviews came out, I thought about doing a blog on the game talking about its flaws. But in the end I decided to sit on the idea because I didn't want to critique Sea of Thieves. I felt that if I did critique the game, I wouldn't get across the message that I wanted to get across. A message that doesn't just affect this game, but affect other games that have released in the past and a message that I hope affects games in the future. That message is: where is the content?
What does Sea of Thieves, Destiny, and Star Wars: Battlefront have in common? Despite having $60 price tags and some great aspects to the game, they all suffered at launch do to a lack of content. Sure, these games also had their own separate issues, but none were as big as those main reasons. These three games had great potential when they were leading up to launch, but because of its lack of content at the start, the reviews only went so high. Of course the games added content later (Sea of Thieves will get there) and made the game great, but because of their slow start the game ultimately suffered. The initial stigma and reviews around the game is like a ball and chain to these game that can never be taken off because no matter how much content is added to the game, the thought of its launch will always be there.
But this isn't an issue that only plagues those three games. While it isn't the biggest issue in the industry, it is one that still pops up from time to time and one that should be addressed. Saying that your game has a multi-year plan or that their will be content paid or free in the future doesn't excuse you from launching a product with enough content in it to deserve its price tag.
One of the most important things when presenting a product is the first impression. In a story, one of the most important chapters is the first one. In an article, one of the most important parts is the title and lede. And meeting your future parent in-laws for the first time will also be one of your most important times in meeting with them. First impressions are important as for that is where you get someone hooked, or that is usually when a judgement is made about something. The same can be said for a video game. If a game cannot hook you in its first few hours, then it will most likely not hook you in its last few. So why is this practice of first impressions lost on releasing games? Reviews for the game happen at the launch of the game, not three years in, so why make what should've been 1.0 a year later when the game will most likely not be reviewed?
Now I am not saying that games have to release with all of the content in the world. I support adding in new content into the game over the game's lifespan, even if that content is paid. Take Dying Light for example: the game has done an excellent job at releasing with a good amount of content at the start as well as supporting it with content both paid and free after launch. Maybe not all games can have post-release content like Dying Light, but all games should at least have enough content at launch to make its purchase on day one viable. Sure, it will cost more money to push back a release date and work more on the game, but if you have that content there from day one, I guarantee that the higher reviews will bring in more sales and the increase of content will keep people playing your game and keep interest in the game.
Their is a famous Wendy's commercial in which a few old ladies surround a burger with a very small beef patty and ask "where's the beef?" I would like to think of these games like a burger with a low of beef. If you eat that burger, you are only getting a small amount of beef, and no matter how many fries are served to you, you cannot forget the fact that your burger had very little beef. Does having a low amount of beef a bad thing? No, just don't expect people to buy it at full price. Is adding unlimited sides a good thing? Yeah, as long as you make sure the first part of the meal worth it. And who knows, maybe adding in the essential content later and selling 1.0 a year after release and at a cheaper price may be more profitable, but the reviews will still be there. So I ask the games of the future that want to charge me full price these two questions: where's the beef and when should I buy your game?