Everyone's going online. Xbox Live has been a huge success for the 360, and is one of the cornerstones of Microsoft's strategy to make money with their system. The PS3 also wants you to purchase games and content online. The Wii? Nintendo doesn't even want you to disconnect when you're not gaming. I love getting my games online and I enjoy not having to put up with broken software or online exploits that can now be fixed. But there's a slippery slope, and a dangerous one. At what point are we okay with games getting better via downloads, before developers think they can ship software with major issues and think they can just patch it later. Will this lead to shoddy first releases before a flurry of patches?
Square President Yoichi Wada had some scary things to say on this topic during a press meeting in Tokyo. It's not what he said that frightens me, it's his flippant tone. I'll let the man speak for himself in this quote from IGN.
PC gamers are going to love this one. Wada also pointed out that, with permanent online connections, it's possible to update game software. "Game makers have, until now, incurred great cost during development for debugging," he said. "Perhaps we can reduce this cost." Wada suggested that, thanks to the availability of software updates, developers won't have to work so hard to find the zaniest bugs. Wada didn't use the word "patch," strictly, but if he were a native English speaker, he might have.
Patch is an ugly word, and when it comes to online consoles you'll almost never hear anyone say it. I don't like anyoneas much ashinting that they'd be willing to cut costs ofdevelopment by shaving time and effort off from debugging. This is exactly the wrong attitude to have, and it's even sillier to say it somewhere you know there's a good chance you'll be quoted. PC gamers will probably say "I told you so," but so far I haven't seen a lot of buggy console releases hit in dire need of a patch. I'm hoping that doesn't change and the big three keep their own standards up, but I'm more than a little scared of what this says about the future of console games.