I was in the local GameStop with my son earlier today and was told the bad news that “No Man’s Sky” was delayed yet again by the developer, Hello Games. This is by far the worst gaming news I’d heard in years.
Pre-Orders are a great mechanism, in that they help the Developer determine ahead of time what the popularity of the game is (“do I need to hire another 10 programmers to ensure we complete this game on-time?”), and provide a good estimate of exactly how many game boxes they’ll need to publish to serve current demand on the actual release date. GameStop offers Pre-Orders for $5.00, which thankfully goes towards the total price of the game. While this type of purchase is not backed by a written and legally binding contract, I don’t think anyone would dispute that a pre-order is a type of contract agreement. If someone pays the total Pre-Order amount, then they get first shot at picking-up a copy of the game the night before the set general release date. When I bought this Pre-Order (and paid the entirety of the amount owed), the General Release Date was scheduled for June 21st.
The current GameStop Bonus for Pre-Orders:
- Rezosu Z65: A plasma pistol.
- Starting boost – 10,000 units.
- Upgraded Alpha Vector Ship: The Alpha Vector attack ship upgraded with lasers for protection & a Hyperdrive.
So the fact that these items are available to GameStop Pre-Order customers, also establishes that the Developer can add certain perks and benefits like the above with minimal fuss on their part.
If I receive a loan from a bank, it is written-up as a legally binding contract, and the expectation is that I would pay them back and include an interest payment(s), so this kind of contract has definite accountability built into the language of the contract. If I miss a payment, then a fee or fine is already stipulated. I therefore propose that the Pre-Order expectations should include some Developer accountability for any client who has stepped-up to put some money down on a future purchase such as this. As indicated above, the Developer themselves could easily step-up and offer some additional incentives to appease the masses that they have so readily and arbitrarily jilted.
And while I certainly don’t condone the actions of those few fans who have allegedly made death threats against the Developer and news bloggers/reporters who are reporting on this subject matter, I understand why they are so upset. Commitments are accords, and as such should be respected, and kept in order to be fair to the original tenets of the agreement. To arbitrarily change some aspect of an agreement breaks the accord, and as such, the party making the arbitrary change needs to bring something new to the table in order to bring both sides back into balance, and allow the agreement to once again be an accord.
I am finding it hard to say that this whole affair has “damaged me”, but I certainly could argue that this arbitrary change of Release Date has damaged my sense of calm in many ways:
- Wasted Time: Primarily there is the amount of time and effort spent negotiating Personal Time Off with my employer. This is now wasted time.
- Wasted Time 2: And now apparently I will need to waste additional personal time in the near future since I will now need to spend some additional time cancelling that original Personal Time Off. My employer doesn’t take kindly to scheduling Personal Time Off, only to have to cancel that same PTO a few months later, so this whole affair will actually damage my professional reputation and working relationships with my administrative staff.
- Wasted Time 3?: Additionally, the newly selected date is firmly within “summertime” time-frame, which means that obtaining Personal Time Off for this new General Release Date will be far more difficult and maybe even impossible. I’ve gone from having guaranteed time off to being placed on a “Wait List” in the hopes that my future PTO will be granted.
- Hello Games Failed Commitment: Then there is the actual disappointment factor caused by the failure of Hello Games to deliver the game when they originally committed to.
- Certainly it’s only a minor irritation, but while GameStop has now changed their release dates to match the new date provided in Sony’s PlayStation.Blog, the actual Hello Games webpages (main HG webpage, and No Man’s Sky dedicated page) still show the June 2016 release date as of the time of this blog article (May 31st)! C’mon Sean!! This isn’t helping your position at all!
A NEAT AND EASY SOLUTION
If, for example, Sean Murray had practiced his diplomacy skills by making the initial Delay notification in the form of a “Good News/Bad News” scenario (“The Bad News is that I’m sorry to say that I’ve authorized a delay to ensure that the game receives the proper polish it needs, but the Good News is that anyone with a Pre-Order on file at the time of this announcement will receive a courtesy $5 discount, and some additional in-game swag (increased starting currency, 2 Ship Upgrades of the user’s choice, etc”), I would think that he would have neatly side-stepped the whole death-threat issue, or at least greatly diminished the volume and sincerity of the threats. More importantly, he would have demonstrated graciousness rarely seen in today’s game market, and in doing so earned some great PR on behalf of Hello Games.
At least in this writer’s humble opinion…