Source: Flickr by Natty Dread, Cyberpunk 2077
Video games in today’s age have advanced far with the technologies they offer. Back in the day, every game was on a disk, that disk had all the contents of the game and those would never change nor be updated. Compare that to 2023, all games are online, purchased from online stores, yes you still get disks but they aren’t the current version of the game, only the first one.
Patches in video games
That brings us to the topic of today’s discussion; patches in video games. These small and beautiful tweaks allow a game to improve and fix any issues that still exist. Unfortunately for the average gamer, this brings along something known as ‘patch culture’. This is the phenomenon where developers release games in an unfinished or unoptimised state, with the intention of addressing it later.
If you have played any recent games on release, you will most likely find bugs throughout the gameplay, if you’re on the PC you will also suffer poor optimisation, leading to many frames being unrightfully dropped.
A perfect example of this would be Projekt Red’s ‘Cyberpunk 2077.’ Although it is now playable in 2023, and a game which I have very much enjoyed, it became infamous for its myriad of bugs and performance issues on release. It was, in essence, a promise of a game rather than a fully-realised product.
When looking at Cyberpunk, you can see there were many signs of a rushed release; multiple delays, unrealistic launch expectations, and immense pressure from the gaming community. ‘Patch culture’ became the safety net for its rocky launch.
The pros and cons of patches
This tendency of releasing games in unfinished states can indeed harm the overall gaming experience. It’s like opening a beautifully wrapped gift, only to find it broken or incomplete, and then being told that the missing pieces will be delivered to you gradually over time. This breeds disillusionment and mistrust among gamers. Not only can it ruin the player’s experience, but it can also damage the developer’s reputation, leading to mistrust in future releases.
On the other hand, when used responsibly, patches can work wonders for a game.
Take ‘No Man’s Sky’ for example, a game that was initially met with severe criticism due to an incredible amount of broken promises and lack of content. However, developer Hello Games stuck with it, releasing numerous patches and updates that dramatically improved the game over time. Today, it’s praised for its depth and variety, demonstrating how effective patching can redeem a once-maligned game. It even won the ‘BAFTA Games Award’ in 2022, fulfilling its legacy once and for all. Still, it is important to see that if it weren’t for patch culture these issues wouldn’t have arisen in the first place.
Companies should not be allowed to promise gamers an incredible game to give them a sad excuse for a game.
Patch culture isn’t inherently bad.
Like any tool, it can be used both beneficially and detrimentally. The key is finding a balance and using it responsibly – for refining games post-release based on player feedback, rather than compensating for hasty and unpolished releases. Only by doing so can we preserve the magic and enjoyment of gaming, while still benefiting from the power patching has given companies.