We here at Cheat Code Central have ranted before about how games—especially PC games—are often released before they're ready. The idea, apparently, is that you pay now and simply assume that the game will be fixed via patch. Eventually. This is disrespectful to paying customers at best, and downright dishonest at worst.
Well, the problem has metastasized. Now not just games, but consoles are being released without core features in place. Just look at the two most recent console launches: the Vita and the Wii U.
I bought a Vita in part because I'm the only person in the world who still doesn't have a smartphone. I don't have a tablet, either. I thought the Vita, in addition to providing high-powered gaming, could help me check my email when I don't have access to a computer or don't feel like booting one up. After all, the console was presented as a tablet-esque device.
But no. The handeld launched without an email app, meaning that the only way to check my inbox was to go through the rather clumsy web browser, a process that was just as inconvenient as booting up a laptop. Only this week was an email app patched in with a firmware update, and, frankly, it kind of sucks. The good news is that it's quite easy to sync up the app to your Gmail or Yahoo account. The bad news is everything else.
For starters, the app can't read many of the emails I receive from businesses; when I tried to look at a message from Sprint about my monthly bill, for example, I got the error message: "This file is not compatible with the PS Vita system." The client does not thread conversations. And Gmail users will be utterly baffled to find that the messages they discard are moved to the Trash folder rather than the Archive.
I also had trouble connecting the app to the email account I use for my day job. In fact, it's still not connected. It's possible I'm missing some obvious setting tweak, I suppose, but I'm already finding message board threads from other people who can't get their non-Gmail/non-Yahoo accounts to work.
If I can't read my work email through the app, it's pretty much useless, so I'm back to letting my Vita sit around all day in its case.
Nintendo's Wii U hasn't been much better. Like the Vita, it was sold as more than just a game system—it could meet all of your entertainment needs. Eventually.
The Netflix app is having problems dealing with passwords containing "@." The other streaming services—Hulu, YouTube, etc.—are still "coming soon." And TVii—a major Wii U selling point that turns the GamePad into a universal remote, lets you access content from your cable provider, provides access to video on demand, and is compatible with TiVo—won't be live until December.
And this is not to mention the deeper problems with the Wii U at launch. Apparently, you can actually brick your console by unplugging it during an update. This should have been fixed before release; now, a consumer who wants to feel safe will need either a patch or a new version of the console, depending on what exactly the problem is.
It's precisely the same game that developers have been playing with software for too long: Give us your money now, and we'll give you something cool eventually. This trend has worsened for years, and now we're at the point where developers use patches as crutches, releasing half-finished garbage with a "we can fix it some other time" attitude. This happens to some degree even at the very top of the industry—Assassin's Creed III is one recent example of a great, high-profile game that was released with a ton of bugs still in it.
I'm optimistic that the Wii U's video features will be as spectacular as Nintendo promises, but that optimism is tempered by Sony's colossal failure to give the Vita a basic app that every tablet and smartphone in existence has had for years. And I am worried that the next major console releases, the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox 720 (or whatever they’ll be called), will be the same.
Do we really want to go down this road with consoles? I love it that game systems continue to improve long after they're released, but it's disappointing when a console launch doesn't feature everything that was promised before launch. It's simply unacceptable to expect consumers to spend money on promises rather than product.
But I'll get over it and start trusting these companies again. Eventually.
Date: November 27, 2012