Just days ago we found out that Cyberpunk 2077 was delayed by five months or more. Given the amount of hype that goes into new releases, it's always gut-wrenching when they move back.
Gamers spend a lot of time and money planning their purchases on the back of release schedules and it often seems to be the bigger titles we notice delays on.
The start of a new decade is exciting enough, the new year always brings attention to the 12 months of quality gaming ahead.
The announcement of the new next-gen consoles expected at the end of the year has added a new level of excitement to what could come. Both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X look like they can take gaming to new heights.
But is that part of the problem?
VICTIM: Just another title being delayed in a sad January for gaming
There have been no less than five major titles pushed back this month alone.
CD Projekt Red's title has been in development for over five years, so it's not like the developers are rushing it out - but why is it such a problem right now?
ANOTHER MAN DOWN: The next big release to be delayed in January 2020
With resources to make games tighter than ever, developers are often forced into putting all their eggs into one basket rather than building multiple games at once.
It usually affects game series that are more storied in nature. The big RPGs are more susceptible than the likes of sports games that are released annually.
Annual titles are often released with bugs all over the place and continually patched until they get it right, it's much more important they hit a release date and improve from there. Therefore, it's no surprise to see the storyline driven big releases suffering the most delays.
The new next-gen consoles also no doubt play a huge role. With both touted to have a release date as 'Holiday 2020', they could be with us any time between October and December 2020.
With this in mind, any game that comes out prior to this will have to deal with the reality of launching on soon-to-be old tech and then being updated to leverage the new capability. And if the marketing of Sony and Microsoft is to believed, this could be a chasm between the two technologies.
IMPACT: This year's games are all affected by the next-gen consoles
If you only had one shot to launch your life's work in a game, you would want it to be utilizing the best tech possible to give it the best chance of going down in history as shaping gaming. The right kick-off title for a console can help both the developer and the software companies.
This actually means further delays are more likely than less. Unless the developers can get hold of early working versions of the consoles, they don't know exactly what kind of power they are working with. If the consoles come out in October, it's going to take a few months of tuning to actually leverage the qualities the new tech would unleash.
Developing games isn't easy
PERFECTIONISTS: They want this to be a "crowning achievement for this generation"
Game developers can often be perfectionists. And with good reason. Often the players are too. Any issues with games in the modern era and there are forums and Reddit posts filled with players' opinions about what they could or should do about it.
“We are currently at a stage where the game is complete and playable, but there’s still work to be done,” said Marcin Iwinski and Adam Badowski, leaders at developer CD Projekt Red, in a statement on Twitter. “Night City is massive — full of stories, content and places to visit, but due to the sheer scale and complexity of it all, we need more time to finish playtesting, fixing and polishing. We want Cyberpunk 2077 to be our crowning achievement for this generation and postponing launch will give us the precious months we need to make the game perfect.”
Game developers are constantly looking to survive, there are huge overheads associated with creating a game and you only get so many attempts to survive. One bad title can mean the end of your company, equally a big one can be a ticket needed to be bought out by a bigger rival such as Activision.
A lot of these games are an 'all or nothing' play by the people that create them. They would rather wait a few months for the one bullet to be a perfect shot, than rush and get it wrong.
Alongside this, there are a few fundamentals of business that dictate that sales and marketing need to happen alongside development. It wouldn't be possible to wait until the game is finished to be able to accurately market a title in a sensible time slot. Being presented at E3 with just trailers is par for the course, with all parties working towards a goal date.
Delays in gaming are not uncommon, but there's no doubting the severity and high profile nature of this January. With the focus of a new decade and the impact of multiple next-generation consoles adding fuel to the fire, it just feels a lot more noticeable.
Will this trend continue?
Unfortunately, I expect it to get worse this year. It's likely that titles delayed to September time will have another small push back to align with new consoles and launch in early 2021.
But with Call of Duty leading the way with showing how updates whilst live can work with a committed audience, it's clearly very possible to see more developers adopting this approach of continuous improvement. Just make sure you have enough space on your console for the constant updates.