Remember the good old days? I’m talking about everything before November 2005, when Microsoft kicked off the seventh console generation with the Xbox 360 and ushered in a new era. A time when companies decided it was fine to go ahead and release games that were broken or unfinished. After all, we can rely on the internet now! We can put out patches that will make everything all better eventually. Who cares if it takes days, weeks, or months before things are right? If at all! Or if our actual consoles break a bit in the process.
It is a shame that patches have become such a way of life. Things are at a point where everything gets a day one patch. Even Nintendo games are subject to such things, and this is a company that resisted with the Wii and Wii U. But there’s an even darker side to patches than the simple inconvenience that comes from a game not being 100% ready and near perfect at launch. As of late, we’re seeing patches that make our own experiences worse.
Patches aren’t small anymore. Back on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, they could be a couple hundred MB. We didn’t often see ones that were a GB or larger. Yet now, that seems like the standard. Final Fantasy XV needs an update? That’s 2GB. Overwatch has an update? Another 2GB. Could one of Bethesda’s many games need some tweaking? 2GB all around! In an age where data caps are being inflicted upon us and some don’t have access to amazing internet, each one of those updates is a dagger in people’s hearts. Especially when a game forces you to acquire said update before playing. No Call of Duty for you until all your downloads are done!
More important, they sometimes do more harm than good. Why? Because not only do companies release games that have problems big enough to need patches, but even the patches need patching. Yes, these fixes are being released without the proper testing to make sure they make the games run better. In some cases, this leads to minor problems that are incredibly inconvenient. Like the Skyrim Special Edition 1.03 console patch made the game crash and freeze. Which meant you couldn’t play until the next patch. Diablo III’s patch 2.4.3 would completely crash and freeze PlayStation 4 Pros.
But that pales in comparison to one of the worst patch situations ever. Ubisoft has made history in the worst way. It released an update on September 20, 2017 that not only basically broke the game, but was corrupting PlayStation 4 hard drives. People who downloaded the update, then looked at their friends list while in-game (perhaps to invite people to play), would find their console crash. This crash could have even caused the system’s entire hard drive to become corrupted. A rallying cry went out around the internet to not download the update or play. It was fixed speedily, with a 50% Renown Bonus Event for 24 hours as reparations, but the fact that it happened at all is absolutely ridiculous.
Patches are an unavoidable part of gaming life now. They are here to stay. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t hold companies accountable for the updates they release. We need to know that any fixes that come through the pipeline are exactly that. These need to be manageable updates that make our lives better, rather than things we fear and worry might make things worse.