Day one patches have been the subject of much debate on our news site recently. Are they good? Are they bad? I've seen many questions which deserve an answer, such as why are third party publishers releasing what often feels like half finished games and how come first party publishers, particularly Nintendo, don't seem to have the same error ridden issues?
The biggest question all of this comes down to is, do you feel happy paying out for a game which is in need of a day one fix? I've seen both sides of this argument and intend to cover this as best as I can. Unfortunately quite a few publishers have declined to involve themselves in this feature, so I'll need to play the role of both the defence and the prosecution. So lets start off with the developers point of view.
One of the main arguments for the use of day one patches is that the we now live in a connected world. In fact a quick search on google shows statistics suggesting that around 80 percent of people with a console are connected to the Internet. This of course means that most people who buy a game day one will be able to download any day one fix. In this respect, even when a game ships, this means that in developer's eyes a game is no longer a finished product, instead they can continue to tweak it and solve any issues all the way up until its release date and beyond. Of course patches appearing long after release have been a common occurrence for many years now and often improve the game, although that's not really the issue we are covering here.
Let's take the recent release of Medal of Honor: Warfighter as an example of what we are asking about. Many were surprised to see such a huge day one patch for this game, in fact looking at the fixes the list is as long as your arm. There are all manner of problems that you would expect to be spotted by the publishers extensive Q&A process and fixed up before the disc was even on the pressing machine, so why didn't this happen? Well apparently from what I'm told, developers are now allowed to ship a game even if it does have issues, as long as these are guaranteed to be fixed in the day one patch, controversial? Certainly. True? Well just think back to nearly every big non-Wii release over the last few years. How many can you name that haven't had some sort of patch on day one or at least a few weeks after in order to solve problems?
So why would a development team, which no doubt take a lot of pride in its work want to ship a disc with so many problems? Well there's only one answer for this question.... publishers. As you can imagine, due to financial reasons, such as money spent on advertising, shareholders and all other manner of non-gaming issues, publishers are under a lot of pressure to get games shipped. This obviously then sees them put pressure on the development teams to meet the launch date. Sometimes there is an exception to this rule of course, for instance THQ have delayed many games for quality reasons, allowing the developers more time, while Ubisoft have also been known to do this; the upcoming Wii U title Rayman Legends being a prime example.
Unfortunately publishers delaying a game is the exception rather than the rule, so it seems that the case for the defence is: This is the world we live in and if you don't like it then you better find a good broadband provider and connect to the Internet.
Ok, so you've bought a game, you take it home and it's more error ridden than you could possibly have expected. You hear that there's a day one patch, but since you are in the minority which can't connect to the Internet, you're stuck with an inferior product, are you happy about this? Of course not. You wouldn't pay for a leaking bottle of coke, would you?
Another annoyance about these patches is the fact that they exist in the first place. For one it's frustrating when you put your disc in and expect to play, only to be greeted with a patch notification. It's also easy to feel aggrieved that a game should have so many errors. Assassin's Creed III had 44 fixes in its day one patch, how disheartening must it be to know that before you even put a disc in the machine?
As a gamer day one patches do frustrate me. I wouldn't call myself a massive Nintendo fan but from where I'm standing, it seems that it's about the only publisher to get it right. When was the last time you spotted a load of bugs in a Nintendo title? Has Nintendo even had the need to patch one of its games (well perhaps a few, but certainly not for anything game breaking). I suppose this is the luxury a first party publisher has, although you have to question if this will still be the case when the newly connected Wii U roles into town.
It does seem that day one patches are here to stay. Is this fair for those who cannot connect to the Internet and indeed even those who can, I'd have to say no. It's easy to see both sides of the argument really, but given that I'm Scottish I have the luxury of calling this one 'Not Proven', although the developers and publishers must take a long hard look at day one patches in general, because if things continue down this road then next time the jury might not be so forgiving.
What do you think? Can you understand and accept the reason for day one patches on consoles or are you totally against them? Let us know your thoughts on this controversial subject below.