Delayed Video Game Releases: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

April 9, 2015

“A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”
– Shigeru Miyamoto

Chances are you’ve already read or heard this now-famous quote by one of the biggest named in the industry. It’s no secret that Miyamoto’s commitment to releasing a game only when it is deemed “perfect” has led to several titles launching well after their intended date. Looking back, we can only be grateful that he holds this design philosophy, since some of the best games he has ever helped create were given more time to develop.

Of course, it’s hard not to be disappointed when a title you’re anticipating is announced to be delayed passed its anticipated release date. Take The Legend of Zelda for Wii U, a game that was initially announced for 2015, but was recently pushed back to 2016 via a video announcement by series director Eiji Aonuma. But at the end of the day, will we be thanking Nintendo for making this decision if this Zelda turns out to be the best one yet?

On the other hand, there have been plenty of games that haven’t turned out so great even after months (or even years) of extra development time. One of the most infamous titles is none other than Duke Nukem Forever, which began development in 1997, but game engine changes and publisher switching led to its release 14 years later to critical disappointment.

Despite taking more time to create, a good amount of titles ended up letting us down, whether it was due to built-up expectation or disappointing gameplay.

The following is a list of several games that were delayed but ended up blowing us away, proving that sometimes a bit more time is needed to perfect a game, followed by a few titles that suffered through the development process only to face.

Good Delayed Games #1: BioShock + BioShock Infinite

Most gamers find it easier to recall the development woes the recent BioShock Infinite suffered, which pokes fun at itself in one of the levels for taking very long to develop. However, it’s interesting to point out that the original BioShock also suffered an extra-long development cycle. When you realize that Irrational Games took three years to make BioShock, and five to make BioShock Infinite, it’s clear that they too perhaps share the same philosophy as Miyamoto.

Fortunately both times have paid off, as BioShock’s breathtaking underwater adventure is now seen as one of the best games ever made. This is due to its inescapable atmosphere, captivating storyline, and awesome gameplay that offered its own FPS twist via plasmids. BioShock also gave birth to one of the most iconic phrases in gaming: “Would You Kindly.”

With BioShock Infinite, Irrational Games proved that with extra time they are capable of delivering yet another amazing game. This game, set in the sky, was received with critical acclaim upon release for its gorgeous environments, memorable characters, and ending that had you thinking weeks after the game was over.

Good Delayed Games #2: Half-Life 2

If there’s one developer known for delaying their games over long periods of time, it’s Valve. For whatever reason, they like taking a long time making their games, and as is the case with the highly-anticipated Half-Life 3, take even longer just to announce that they’re actually making it.

Half-Life 2, arguably one of their best titles ever produced, took five years to develop. This was mostly due to two reasons: Valve crafting a brand new engine for it, and the fact that the game’s source code was leaked just after being unveiled. Between polishing up the new Source engine and fixing the security hole, Half-Life 2 wasn’t able to release until a year after its original launch date.

The excruciating wait was, of course, worth it, as Half-Life 2 is now considered a video game masterpiece. Had it not been delayed, perhaps it wouldn’t have included the innovative physics, immersive storytelling, or addicting gameplay that made it a hit.

Good Delayed Games #3: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

To be fair, almost every console Zelda title has missed its initial release date. Interestingly enough, one of the only exception is the title that was made in only about a year: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. The reason we’re adding The Wind Waker on this list is not just because it was delayed, but because it suffered a transformation that caused every gamer’s jaw to drop.

It all started in August of 2000, when Nintendo showed a tech demo for the console that would end up being the GameCube. It involved Link and Ganondorf in a brief but incredible swordfight, all in realistic graphics. It would be the Zelda title everyone was dreaming about, and an obvious step in the right direction considering the realistic visuals of both Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask.

At Space World 2001, however, Nintendo unveiled Wind Waker’s cel-shaded graphics, in all its cartoonish glory. Most fans couldn’t believe that Zelda would receive such a radical change in visual style. Though, as we all know today, The Wind Waker is now hailed as one of the best Zelda games of all time for, among many things, it’s gorgeous visual style. Now we can’t help but be glad that Nintendo took the extra time to go with the cel-shaded route and deliver one of the most memorable action-adventure experiences ever made.

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Bad Delayed Games #1: Duke Nukem Forever

No game has gone through the development hell that this title went through. It all started with 3D Realms in 1997, who even released promo information for the game up until 1998. Between that time and 2001, however, 3D Realms was forced to delay the game repeatedly due to unexplained circumstances.

It wouldn’t be until December of 2007 that they’d release a brand new teaser trailer. However, a company downsizing lead to the loss of most of the game’s team, leading to several more years where the game was put on hold. It wasn’t until 2010 that Gearbox Software took the reins in order to finally complete the game. It would only take them around a year to do so.

Around fifteen years of game development clearly served no purpose as the game was criticized for terrible pacing, outdated gameplay mechanics, and disturbing depiction of women. Sadly, most gamers knew there was no way this game could be good upon release after everything it had been through, which actually led to more people being interested in it.

Bad Delayed Games #2: Perfect Dark: Zero

As the sequel to one of the most acclaimed first-person shooters from the Nintendo 64 era, everyone had high hopes for this title. Despite beginning development around the year 2000, Perfect Dark: Zero would not release for another five years. This was mostly due to Rare having to switch platforms on more than one occasion.

The first time was when Microsoft fully purchased Rare in 2002, which meant that they had to abandon their work on a GameCube version to switch over to Xbox. They pushed the limits of the Xbox, even setting up an Xbox Live mode that had them pushing 50 players online at once. But when the Xbox 360 was conceived, Rare decided they wanted to utilize its power to create something bigger and better, which allowed for certain features such as co-op.

It certainly wasn’t a commercial failure after releasing for the Xbox 360, but it also didn’t quite meet anyone’s expectations, receiving mostly average review scores despite taking so long to make. Instead of blowing us away like the original Perfect Dark did, we instead received uninspired level design combined with cringe-worthy voice acting and a poor story.

Bad Delayed Games #3: Spore

As the brainchild of famed game designer Will Wright, Spore was a game for which a lot of people had high expectations. Wright, after all, is responsible for some of the most innovative game series in the industry, including SimCity and The Sims. Thus, gamers were excited at the chance to play a God game created by the man behind some of the most beloved strategy and life simulation games.

Will Wright has stated in interviews that he was already doing early prototypes and research for Spore seven years before its release, and barely forming a core team two years later. This means that Spore had plenty of time to get developed, especially after missing its 2007 release and instead hitting store shelves a year later.

Although a good number of reviewers praised Spore for its technical feats and interesting theme, it was regarded by most as a less-than-stellar game. Much of the criticism came from a tedious simplicity throughout most of the game, particularly the first four phases. Without enough depth, players were forced to go through dull gameplay before reaching the more interesting sections of the game. Others also pointed out that it simply tried doing too much, resulting in shallow versions of more acclaimed games.