Economics is a funny thing.
In the video game industry, developers and publishers are forced to placate a ravenous fan and consumer base. We want everything. We want it bigger. We want it better. And we want it right now.
The release of Polish game studio CD Projekt RED’s “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” on Tuesday, May 19, proves however that sometimes we need industry folk to save us from ourselves. We need that custodial hand to reach out and hold us back — to make us wait for a better game at a better time.
That’s exactly what “Wild Hunt” is: a better game at a better time.
I am only about 10 hours into the title, but I really like it. It is a pretty basic role-playing game that follows the grand open-world designs of the critically and commercially successful genre hits that came before it: “Dragon Age: Inquisition,” the “Elder Scrolls” titles and maybe even a sprinkling of the “Fable” franchise.
“Wild Hunt” actually succeeds where “Inquisition” failed in that it conveyed the sense of a massive universe with hundreds of hours of content without overwhelming the player.
In “Inquisition,” I was assaulted by this huge map with a ton of little speckles on it — each representing a menial task for me. The shell shock was so bad that the developers at BioWare had to encourage players to leave the first area before getting bogged down by the enormity of it all.
In “Wild Hunt,” players start out in a small village with only handful of things to do. These tasks are also not as monotonous as many open-world role-playing games, which typically have you slaughtering beasts over and over again or running errands for the first few hours. Many “Wild Hunt” quests are actually criminal or paranormal investigations, which are both fun and unique.
The true strength of “Wild Hunt,” however, has very little to do with its gameplay. The delays made this title into a day-one success.
You are probably asking “but Rory, aren’t delays bad? Don’t you cry about them at night?”
Yes, I surely do. But sometimes a delay is so strategic that it benefits everyone involved.
“Wild Hunt” was originally slated to do battle with “Inquisition” last autumn. This direct conflict would have taken away sales, critical acclaim and gamer interest from each. Both require a commitment of at least 50 or more hours, so a lot of us would either have to choose or deal with playing two complex games with different controls at the same time.
With a May release, “Wild Hunt” dodged this unnecessary battle. We had plenty of time to admire and cherish “Inquisition,” and now we are ready for a new love affair.
The delay almost certainly helped CD Projekt RED get the game in better working order, too.
“Wild Hunt” as it stands today is a little buggy. In fact, I encountered a game-breaking crash on the tutorial mission. I’ve sent ravens to some other reviewers, and they also found some problems.
There are also rumors of a graphical downgrade flying around. “Wild Hunt” looks great, and the unplayable cinematic movies that assist the story are absolutely gorgeous.
But does it look as good as we promised in trailers and hands-off demos over the past two years? Certainly not, but here’s a newsflash: No game ever does. Most trailers and demo videos are compiled on high-end PCs with the development programs used to make the games. They either lie and tell us its real footage, or keep quiet and hope we don’t ask.
That being said, can you imagine how many bugs there would be or what kind of a graphics meltdown we’d be looking at if the Polish gaming hammer didn’t have an extra six months with “Wild Hunt?” It could very well have been unplayable, and the ultimate goal of all developers should be delivering a playable game.
Finally, the delays also allowed “Wild Hunt” to be the savior of springtime.
We are of course just coming out of the Dark Ages, the period between January and May where we are only offered the scraps from big-time game developers’ tables. The release of a big, shiny new adventure from a respected franchise shines a light on this gloom.
More gaming franchises should do what “Wild Hunt” stumbled upon accidentally. Sit on a completed title during the summer or holiday gaming rush and release it during the Dark Ages.
This might not go over well with a gaming population that wants everything now, but it seems to be a much better business strategy. Choose a proper window for maximum success, similar to how film production companies might hold on to completely films for a specific time of year, like Christmas.
The release date of “Wild Hunt” certainly snagged me as a buyer. I’m sure I am not the only one who wasn’t super enthralled by “Wild Hunt.” I didn’t plan to purchase it.
However, when Tuesday rolled around, I thought about the current gaming climate. I looked for big-time releases on my left and heard only chirping crickets. I looked to my right and heard only hooting owls. There’s nothing else out there.
The discovery led me to cave in and buy “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt,” and it was a fantastic decision. I got a great game that saved me from the eternal boredom of spring in the gaming industry.