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The GTA Trilogy Shows Publishers Are Too Cocky

When I wrote that the GTA Trilogy collection had best be good, because even Rockstar only gets one chance to majorly screw up, I worried I might be being overly sensitive. This is Rockstar we’re talking about, they’re not going to release a game that has the lowest Metacritic user score of all time.

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Yes, Grand Theft Auto 6 will now only sell 100 million copies instead of 155 million. Or, more likely, we’ll all be taken in by the shine of a new open world and it’ll sell 200 million. Either way, it wasn’t really sales I was talking about.

Rockstar is a business and businesses care about money. In an ideal world they make that money by selling things that people want to buy. Stop me if I’m getting a bit too commie here.

But by hiding the glaring faults with this collection, Rockstar went the opposite way. They didn’t release review codes, they didn’t allow streamers to show any gameplay until after release. They tried to hide just how bad a job they’d done so that people would buy it anyway.

But worse, they punished people who actually care about the games too. They took down the old versions, which have been modded to work incredible well on modern screens, and which arguably now look better than the so-called Definitive Editions. For good measure, they sued the people making the mods.

They have swung for their fans in every direction. They have hurt people who cared enough to work to preserve their classics, then sold those classics in a poor state with the other hand.

But this isn’t a GTA problem

Rockstar isn’t alone in all this. The opposite in fact. Like the film business, it has become increasingly expensive to make games. That means less risks, it means less time spent making sure the product is fit for human consumption.

Time and time again we’re met with games that aren’t quite what they should be. Cyberpunk still isn’t where it needs to be on console. Call of Duty: Vanguard has a handful of immediately obvious issues, especially in split-screen. We are the beta testers, so is it any wonder that the same old games keep doing so well?

Now, I fully accept that there’s a big difference between 200 game testers and 2,000,000 gamers attacking a product. I’m not expecting zero problems, because there’s no such thing. As much as we like to pretend that retro games were flawless, they weren’t. And in those days, you were stuck with a bug. There was no incoming patch.

But the GTA debacle has once again proven that the incoming patch should not be the treatment for a bad experience. The GTA trilogy should have been delayed. Cyberpunk should’ve been delayed. And if the question is money, then the people in charge of these problems have mismanaged them. And you, as their bosses, have not done your job either.

That’s where the problem truly lies. If more of the big bosses played games, these issues wouldn’t exist. Yet here we are. And no doubt I’ll be writing this article again very soon.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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