Why Do So Many Games Release in a Broken State Part 1


Cyberpunk 2077. Forspoken. The Witcher 3 Next Generation Update. The Callisto Protocol and so many others – all of these games show a certain problem within the gaming industry. They were (are) broken! The “release it first, fix later (if at all)” mentality has damaged AAA and AA gaming and has made an impact on indie gaming as well. Releasing games with extreme performance issues on launch, lots of bugs, stability problems, unfinished content, terrible options menus, and poor optimization seems to be the new standard and is plaguing console and PC gaming.


Cyberpunk 2077 definitely needed at least 1 more year of development. At least!

Today we shall explore why modern gaming specifically is affected by this issue.

Reason 1 – A lack of time.

This is the simplest of all problems and perhaps the most common. You see, finding a good release date for a video game is serious and important work. Publishers or developers need to be good at this – release next to too many highly anticipated AAA games from a similar genre? Well, your game (and theirs too!) may suffer from his as the titles compete on store shelves and gamer's time. Release right before holidays? Unfortunately, fixing bugs post-release will be an issue for you now. Take too long to release and lose the hype from your marketing team? Even a great game will suffer somewhat from this mistake.

Hogwarts Legacy had VRAM allocation stutters on launch, as well poor CPU utilization. It is better now, but on launch it was a disaster!

This is why I do empathize with publishers and those in charge of managing release dates too. It is hard work and this is a competitive industry, alas. People make a living off this, wages need to be paid, holidays need to be taken – planning is key. The problem is that very often it seems like the release date and the actual readiness of the game to actually be experienced by human beings… does not align.

This has happened for many AAA, AA, and even indie titles over the past years. Releasing incomplete titles that should have been a beta test at best is almost common practice at this point. There is no silver bullet here. Better planning, management, a better alignment between marketing and the game’s development state, as well as flexibility – these seem like the only ways to mostly get around this problem. And no, perpetually delaying a game is not a good way to do business either. You need to release a product at some point, the pursuit of perfection is good… up to a point. This is why the only way to resolve this problem – is to do better.


Reason 2 - Crunch periods!

This is linked to the above-mentioned issue but it is something worthy of more attention. Bad planning or unrealistic release dates can lead to excessive, brutal periods of crunch.

Now, I will be fair here. I can understand some force majeure circumstances leading to some level of crunch. That I can understand, it happens in all industries, all creative fields, in sciences and in engineering. No one is spared from that. However, it is one thing to work overtime from time to time and because something extraordinary happened, it is another to spend months or even years working without taking holidays or time off, overtime, week after week. Creating a video game is artistry, it is creative work. I know that often you need to just suck it up and do your best and plow through a lack of will to produce art. I am a hobbyist writer after all, creating means hard work at times, it is not all fun and games. But it should not be an absolute slog where you do not get to meet your family or friends for months at a time – that is soulless and crushing. No one can slog through that much and still do their best at the end, no matter their talent or experience or work ethic. Even programmers cannot survive like this in the long term without their work dropping in quality. Hell, even machines wear and tear and breakdown!

This is one of the lucky ones – he can at least sleep on the desk from time to time

Burn out is a real thing. Excessive crunch is brutal and I am certain that it is partly to blame for some bugs or issues in modern games. Not to mention how crushing it may feel to developers, it is something that needs to change for sure.


Reason 3 – Poor QA practices!

QA (Quality Assurance) is a crucial step in any field, but especially game making. Games are complicated software and they are prone to bugs, glitches, general technical problems. Considering how complex even consoles are, let alone gaming PCs with their 10 billion possible combinations and complex APIs and this gets even worse. Now add AI, physics, quest design, creative writing, game design – this is a massive problem and bugs are bound to happen.

Notice how testing is an official part of the pipeline? It should NOT be skipped!

This is where the QA team comes in. The first step towards resolving an issue is to know that there is an issue. Experienced QA teams can quickly and effectively find issues and they can even recommend fixes for at least some of those issues or pin down the exact ways in which they manifest. This means that the developers fixing said issues will have a much easier time doing so.

We know that there have been scandals with certain QA studios over the past year. Namely the Quantic Dreams situation:

Whether everything about that specific situation is entirely true, I do not know. But from what I personally know, there are problems with the QA industry that supports game studios. It seems to be rotten in itself, and this obviously does reflect on modern games. Testing is a complex process, to be a good tester you need experience and sensible practices. Experience cannot be acquired if people are constantly being cycled on the workplace, and good practices – that is a rarity in some locations.


Reason 4 – Early Access for thee and me!

Another issue is the rise of Early Access and the way publishers and developers are misusing it. Games being stuck for months and years in early access with only partial progress, relying on the “Early Access” sticker to shield them from most criticism. It is not really right to consumers nor fans of the game. Paying even a somewhat lower price (but not always) to beta test a game only for it to never really release or be properly fixed – there is something morally wrong with that.

Early Access can be good. Having access to so many more people to help test the game and give their feedback on it, even if not fully professional – there is a place for this. The idea, the promise is not abhorrent in itself. In a better world it would even be perhaps an optimal way to do most games, maybe. But in our world, abandoned half-finished project are everywhere and the sad thing is – it isn’t only indies relying on it. AA and AAA games have started doing this too. Most AAA game launches these days are more or less beta tests for which you pay for at full price. The sticker isn’t even there as warning…

Some early access games do indeed leave early access and are finished. There are exceptions, do not think it is all bad. Others maybe have not left it yet, but it is obvious that the developers are indeed listening and addressing issues (Valheim!) over time. It is too bad that is not the norm…

With this we conclude part 1 of this series. Next time we will see the lack of developer skill (sometimes!), the cultural issues within game design, and the impact Covid had on the gaming industry!



The articles content, opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in SAPPHIRE NATION are the authors’ own and do not necessarily represent official policy or position of SAPPHIRE Technology.

Alexander Yordanov
My name is Alexander and I am an enthusiastic PC Gamer from Sofia, Bulgaria. Video games have been my go-to hobby for as long as I can remember. I started with good old DOOM and Warcraft 1 and also had a Terminator console. In time my often outdated hardware has made me read up Tech Guides and try to understand what goes within a game as well as how to appreciate it or understand it better.