When Games Were Fully Complete Upon Release

The memory of booting up Mortal Kombat II on the SNES and playing right away is a fond one.

I really miss the days when you could buy a game, take it home, boot it up, and immediately jump right into it. There were no updates that had to be downloaded first, no uploading the disc information to the console’s hard drive, and no extra downloadable content to be concerned about. What you bought was what you received. No more, no less. You had the full vision of the game in your hands from the moment you purchased it, which meant you could take it on in its entirety from the very first day the game became yours. Those were the days.

One of my most memorable purchases growing up was Mortal Kombat II for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Of the first four Mortal Kombat games, the second one was always my favorite. It introduced better graphics, a more responsive juggling system, and a wider range of finishing moves to the series at the time. I dropped a lot of quarters on the game when it was in the arcades. Its SNES port was fantastic and one of the best fighting games on that system. What was most impactful to me was opening up that package in my room and being able to select my character within a minute of inserting the cartridge and powering on my SNES. Part of the excitement when I bought a game in those days was that as long as I got home, I knew I would be playing it right away. Nowadays, I’m waiting sometimes over an hour after I load a game because the update needs to be downloaded and installed first.

I bought WWE 2K18 at a GameStop midnight release but because of updates, couldn’t play it until the next morning.

Wrestling games have always been a significant part of my gaming collection from the moment I played Pro Wrestling on the NES. In the fall of 2017, I was one of those gamers who went to the midnight release of WWE 2K18. After purchasing it at my local GameStop, I returned home and booted the game up. Because I had slow internet at the time, the update took forever to download. So long in fact that I eventually went to sleep and had to play the game for the first time when I woke up. That is a good way to kill a person’s initial excitement for a new game and a far cry from just jumping right into the game like I was able to do in the 90s with Mortal Kombat II.

I truly feel that when a game is launched to the public for purchase, it should always be ready to play right out of the box. The patching system seems to sometimes be used as a crutch to buy companies more time to make their games what they should have been in the first place. Developers and publishers should ask the question that if the ability didn’t exist to patch their games at all, would what they initially release be sustainable on its own? Because this was the way of video game development in the past all the way through the Playstation 2/Original Xbox generation of consoles.

Capture Credit: TylerLantern (YouTube)
Pulling off a double Friendship is just one of the many glitches gamers discovered in the SNES version of Mortal Kombat II.

Bugs and glitches will always be present in every single video game. But the key is whether or not they render the game unplayable and/or prevent a gamer’s ability to enjoy it. Bringing Mortal Kombat II up as an example, the glitches in the game actually became something that players found endearing and were eager to seek out. This was because they did not take away from the actual game experience. I played countless hours of Mortal Kombat II and the bugs never prevented me from playing through the game with every character. As a result, MK II’s bugs were not viewed in a negative light. Instead, they added an extra layer of entertainment value. When a game is developed well, the bugs can be perceived differently.

On the contrary, the bugs and glitches found in 2020 releases such as Cyberpunk 2077, Madden NFL 21, and Watch Dogs Legion were anything but welcome. I’ve referenced Cyberpunk 2077 in plenty of posts since its release as a leading example of what happens when bugs are not resolved before launch and can destroy a game’s reputation from the beginning. There are YouTube channels dedicated to Madden’s bugs, such as RyanMoody21. So many bugs have been discovered in the latest game that he has an endless supply of user submissions that he receives and then eventually shares on his channel. As much as I looked forward to Watch Dogs Legion leading up to its release, the third title in the Watch Dogs series had a plethora of bugs from launch. Even when I played the game for a bit last month, I experienced two ridiculous glitches. One was a non-playable character that was floating in mid-air and the other was a security officer being far away from me and suddenly teleporting in front of me when I fired a long-range shot. Those types of bugs make no sense, they are not charming, and they take away from the experience.

Cyberpunk 2077’s infamous launch seemed to stem from the mindset that whatever issues the game had could just be patched later.

Patches and updates can be useful and really help improve a game. But it is baffling to consider that the games of the past had fewer issues and flaws with inferior technology. Furthermore, because there weren’t any patching capabilities for offline consoles at the time, everything rode on what state the game was in at launch. This is such a difference from today where a publisher can push a game out to the market and then patch it later. Yet if Cyberpunk 2077 is any indication, the state of the game at launch still matters to the gamers.

I truly miss full game releases. Downloadable content has been a preferred method for companies to extend the life of a game and also make extra money off of one intellectual property in a way they couldn’t capitalize on in the past. From a business standpoint, I get why developers and publishers love DLC. Season passes and DLC now have gamers spending hundreds of dollars on one game instead of a flat $60 plus tax. But for somebody like who was alive during an era when DLC did not exist, I start to feel as if I’m getting half or three-fourths of a full game when I buy the base/standard version. Sometimes, I just have to settle in my mind that the base game will just have to suffice because I refuse to pay hundreds of dollars for a single game. The most I’ve ever spent on one game was $150 for Fire Pro Wrestling World, which I happily supported because it is my favorite wrestling game series. What Spike Chunsoft packed into this game made purchasing all of the DLC well worth it. Other than that, I have never spent $100 or more on any individual game.

What do you all think? Do you prefer the time when games were released fully complete or do you prefer the era of patches, updates, and DLC? Let me know in the comments section.


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