Your Move: Incomplete Games

Dec 14, 2017

One of my biggest disappointments this year was Mass Effect: Andromeda. Despite having a pretty OK story, it left a lot of open plot holes. It was clear these were due to be filled by planned expansions and sequels. Unfortunately, the games was so poorly received, especially compared to its predecessors, that its developer Bioware completely dropped support for the game, and canceled all future content. Now, it’s looking like the Mass Effect series might be done for good.

Compare this to my favorite game of last year, Final Fantasy XV. This is a game that felt similarly unfinished at launch, with a similarly loud response from disappointed fans. But, instead of completely giving up on the game, something else happened - the developers listened. Not only have there been three downloadable story missions detailing things that happened off-screen during the story, but also, the developers tweaked parts of the game that players thought were too tedious, and added lots of new, free content. Just this week, more than a year after the game came out, they released an update that gives you three more playable characters to choose from.

For better or for worse, these days, most games aren’t complete when they are released - the game is released for $60, then a week later a patch is released to fix some bugs in the game, then 6 months later, if the game made enough money, sometimes you can pay another five or ten dollars for a small expansion to the game. Just over a decade ago, this was nearly impossible on home consoles. You could expand Sonic 3 by piggybacking it on top of a Sonic & Knuckles cartridge, but this was expensive and wasn’t really used again. If you released a broken game, or a game with a half-baked story, that was it, and there was no taking it back.

For what it’s worth, I like the way Final Fantasy XV handled things - they charged for additional side-story content, but they also listened to their customers and fixed things for free while adding new features. I was hoping for the same with Mass Effect, but now it looks like we’ll be stuck with the incomplete story.