Unless you’ve been too busy side-stepping the haunted streets of Bloodborne‘s Yarnham, slaying the baddest baddies in the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, or still in deep space fulfilling your Destiny, you’ve probably heard something about the controversy surrounding the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight.
Fairly early into the game’s release, Steam users began finding good reason to negatively review Batman: Arkham Knight on the online PC games marketplace, a game that is currently being enjoyed by a multitude of console gamers and lauded as one of the best in its series. Poor resolution options and game breaking bugs have been stalking many players who dive into the PC version, and after the the game had already been released, publisher WB Games decided something needed to be done.
All sales of the PC version of Arkham Knight have been indefinitely suspended due to the poor state of the game. While little notice has been given on when sales will return, the publisher had this to say on the matter:
“We want to apologize to those of you who are experiencing performance issues with Batman: Arkham Knight on PC. We take these issues very seriously and have therefore decided to suspend future game sales of the PC version while we work to address these issues to satisfy our quality standards. We greatly value our customers and know that while there are a significant amount of players who are enjoying the game on PC, we want to do whatever we can to make the experience better for PC players overall.
“Thank you to those players who have already given valuable feedback. We are continuously monitoring all threads posted in the Official Batman: Arkham Knight Community and Steam forums, as well as any issues logged with our Customer Support (support.wbgames.com). If you purchased your copy of the game and are not satisfied with your experience, then we ask for your patience while these issues are resolved. If desired, you can request a refund at help.steampowered.com (Steam refund policies can be found here: http://store.steampowered.com/steam_refunds) or the retail location where you purchased the game.
“The Batman: Arkham fans have continually supported the franchise to its current height of success, and we want to thank you for your patience as we work to deliver an updated version of Batman: Arkham Knight on PC so you can all enjoy the final chapter of the Batman: Arkham series as it was meant to be played.”
Now, while this appears to be an earnest apology – and certainly not the only consolation early-buyers of the title will earn – many of the gaming populace are – short of forgiving the matter completely – giving the publisher a little credit for such a sound move.
Granted, as far as I can tell, the suspension of a severely bugged game’s sale after its release date is unprecedented, and I think it’s fair to say this form of action was necessary, given the situation. However, that’s not to say this situation should be accepted as the next norm for a recently launched game just as day-one patches have already become honorable solutions to the glitches that are regularly plaguing modern-day gaming.
There’s also the fact that the PC gaming marketplace has long since retired much of the physical distribution of its titles. If we were looking at the console version of Arkham Knight, would we have seen an equally level-headed solution? The console marketplace is still heavily dependent on physical copies and there would be far too great an overhead cost to justify that particular venture. Really, if you think of it as the eventuality it has become to be delivered an incomplete game on release day, the fact that this happened to the PC version of the game was a godsend. It’s unfortunate that this happened to a community who is more regularly getting shunted by developers, but the console version could have been an even greater mess to handle.
So yes, this was the right move for the situation, but why does it have to be dealt with at all? The release date of a game should be held for those that are ready, regardless of the consumer’s demands for it to release immediately (we don’t always know what’s best… not always).
What was given to the PC gaming community was short of everything PC gamers expect to get from their content. No one invests in a top-of-the-line gaming rig to experience games that are inferior to that of the console market (both in performance and resolution), let alone something that can be downright unplayable at launch. Kotaku’s Nathan Grayson went into greater detail on this, suggesting how infuriating a PC game’s delay can be when it offers nothing more to the experience. Still, to release something that’s nearly unplayable at launch may be even more insulting.
Over the past year, we have become evermore subject to unfinished products released with the intention of “fixing” it later. It might lead one to believe gaming pre-orders would diminish, confidence in the market’s next “must-haves” at launch might dwindle, but our desire for cheap pre-order incentives and instant gratification has rewarded a gaming industry that only gives the full experience to early adopters, and in some circumstances, not even they get all of the content a product can offer. In a game’s development cycle, we get stuck with “how far it has come” rather than “how far it could go.”
The specific circumstances that brought us this particular unpleasantry are as yet unclear to us, and I absolutely believe that WB Games, Rocksteady, and their third-party PC partner bear the heaviest weight for not realizing the magnitude of a problem this would become. But every PC gamer who has griped or expected a launch date side-by-side the console line-up; every gamer who pre-orders a game with faith that the product is finished and precisely what was promised, they too can take a bit of responsibility. By now, we can say with a great deal of certainty that the gaming industry has an unsettling problem with delivering complete experiences at launch, but the feet of developers and publishers aren’t the only places where we can shed blame.
If this experience has been a lesson in anything, it’s that the constant undermining of our own interests as consumers has led to season after season of broken games. Don’t look to shotty development for the answers. Look at how you approach each piece of new content as it comes out. Do you look at it with the discerning eye of a cautious cat or the blindness of a bat?
Jordan Loeffler is an Associate Editor for MONG who drives a 2006 Pontiac Vibe with Minnesota license plates even though he lives in Portland, OR. She’s seafoam green, and she drives like a wave. You can also follow him on IGN and on Twitter.