What We Talk About When We Talk About Video Game Delays

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Pessimism took a win in the world of video games last week, with the news of yet another Final Fantasy XV delay announced on Monday. Video games are delayed all the time, but for a game like this with such an already overlong gestation, when Square Enix rented out a massive auditorium to finally nail down a September 30 release date, fans had strong reason to believe that was the day they would be playing the game.

Final Fantasy XV will now launch almost exactly two months later, on November 29. The news was first rumored by a GameStop employee who received instructions to change promotional materials. Fans fervently denied any possibility of this, even as evidence stacked up against them. The negativity and discourse surrounding the game has now turned exhaustingly vitriolic and feels extremely familiar.

That is, of course, because it hasn’t been very long since the last time a highly-anticipated game received a last-minute delay that felt like the end of the world. No Man’s Sky missed its June release date by the skin of its teeth earlier this very year, and finally hit shelves last week. Expectations for the game were astronomically high, as the build-up to release had promised a seemingly endless world of possibilities and potential for exploration.

You can find a wealth of compilations and complaints on the internet now regarding the “broken promises” of No Man’s Sky. It wasn’t a bait-and-switch on part of the developers trying to rope fans in with features they quickly removed, but rather an intentional ambiguity to preserve each player’s individual experience. Some players feel understandably misled but the game, but others have embraced the meditative solitude of its rewarding gameplay loops.

When the final delay for No Man’s Sky was announced, Hello Games and Sean Murray were met with harassment and hateful comments from their most ardent fans. Those feelings of betrayal and entitlement  have resurface now with the announcement of Final Fantasy’s delay.

For as many overreactions as there are, there is an equal amount of level-headed responses declaring that if the game isn’t as polished as developers want it to be, then a delay is the smart choice. The proclivity to  jump to knee-jerk reactions and jump to anger drowns out the attitude of acceptance that has to come with any video game delay.

As clearly evidenced by No Man’s Sky, managing expectations has become as crucial a part of video game development than finishing cutscenes and tweaking gameplay. Only when fans get their hands on Final Fantasy XV, they will be able to form their own opinions on the final product. But the nature of hype culture on the internet will have many yelling into the formless void about broken promises until the end of November.