It's a familiar story. There's a major title, maybe one of the most anticipated of the year, one that players have been looking forward to for many years. It finally arrives and it's not quite ready for release. There are egregious bugs. There are crashes. Maybe it barely functions with certain combinations of PC hardware. It's not unplayable and, in some cases, it isn't even bad. It's just not optimzied. This is a tale that has become all too common with games from major publishers. In fact, it even has a name in gaming circles. We've come to call it "Bethesda broken."
We've seen "Bethesda broken" games for over a decade. It's happened with games like Fallout: New Vegas, The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, and a host of others. The idea is that it can release in a broken state, but it'll be patched up over time and become polished thanks to a full user base acting as glorified QA testers. It's a practice that has been adopted by publishers like Electronic Arts, Activision, PlayStation, and a parade of others. We've seen this happen over and over. This is nothing new. However, if that's the case, why is Star Wars Jedi: Survivor's launch stinging particularly hard? Why are its numerous problems especially galling this time around?
Part of the reason is that this is Respawn Entertainment and we've come to expect better. Over the years, they have become a standard bearer for quality entertainment, having released generation-defining games like Titanfall and Apex Legends. Survivor's predecessor, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, is arguably the greatest example of why blockbuster linear single-player games can still resonate with a multiplayer-heavy consumer base and sell in today's crowded market.
There's actually a deeper reason and it's because of one of the new "truths" of this console generation. Because publishers and developers are expending greater resources to create games exclusively for new hardware, consumers will have to pay an extra price at retail. It's something that users have increasingly had to come to terms with, even though it's a story that has played out over the course of several years. PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan has been talking about $70 USD games since the launch of the PlayStation 5. Ubisoft initially resisted, but has come around to the $70 MSRP with the intention of starting with (of all games) Skull & Bones. Electronic Arts and 2K has been boasting about the new limits that they can push their sports games to with new console hardware, which is why Madden and NBA 2K have been launching with $70 price tags on consoles only. Why those versions couldn't also launch on high-end PCs is a question for another day.
Gaming has gradually drifted towards the $70 game for years and players have witnessed the follies that have ensued. The less said about next-generation Madden, the better. The most recent Call of Duty games have received increasingly mixed user reviews, some noting a rushed development cycle, others citing numerous crashes, and that's before even getting into microtransactions. Meanwhile, another $70 game, Redfall, is about to launch on consoles limited to 30 FPS and, frankly, not looking great. And, let me say this louder for the readers in the back, I don't want to talk about Forspoken anymore.
I don't even think Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a bad game like many of those examples I cited earlier. Full disclosure, I'm playing it in Quality Mode on PS5 right now and I'm enjoying it immensely. That doesn't diminish the experiences that other people are having, the disappoint that they feel, or that they feel ripped off. My enjoyment of it on PS5 doesn't invalidate what Digital Foundry is calling the worst AAA PC port of the year so far. And, just for fun, let's hear from a few of our own Chatty posters.
- "I just played the opening section on PS5 and Christ it feels stuttering and frame-y all over. It’s definitely not close to 60. Just moving around or doing double jumps feels like ass." (redshak)
- "getting 60ish fps in gameplay, 4K epic+RT with FSR quality (which looks like ass compared to DLSS) on my 4070ti/5600x rig. cutscenes chug and there's obviously some bugs, toggling RT on/off after the game is started appears to halve performance." (gokart.)
- "Yeah it runs at 50-60 in open areas on my 4090 which is kinda sad. The sad part is it is at 40% GPU usage. I haven't seen a game that CPU bound (?) at 4k in a while..." (ForcedEvolutionaryVirus)
- "3080ti, 1440p, doesn't matter what I do I only get around 50 fps" (tunis5000)
- "1440p with a 3080ti and I had to turn off Ray Tracing to get better performance. I had a bad crash with RT on and couldn't access the SSD it was installed on after which was a bit scary. I figure it must have overheated; a reboot fixed it." (r_picmip 5)
- "The performance difference between maxed + rt and low for me is 5fps on a 3080 & 5800x. F**king bananas" (tKillbox)
Frankly, it's insulting that consumers are being asked to pay a greater starting price for the same level of broken nonsense that they were getting in the $60 era. What's the difference between a broken Cyberpunk 2077 launch and a broken Star Wars Jedi: Survivor one? The difference is $10 and, in this economy, that means a lot. As the job market starts to crumble and people are preparing to tighten their belts, there's only so much disposable income to spend on frivolities like video games. It is not fair to ask players to put that money down on a broken product with vague promises that it's all getting fixed later.
Going back to that Digital Foundry review, it starts by noting that Survivor is in an even worse launch state than Fallen Order was when it launched. That was four years and $10 ago. If the asking price for games is going up, the standard of quality shouldn't be going in the other direction. I had a similar epiphany back when I reviewed Anthem, which is another game I would very much like to stop talking about. The realization was that players were stuck in a cycle of poor "Day 1" launches, vague promises for the future, and impatiently waiting for fixes that may never come. That was my personal tipping point for "games as a service" titles and I feel like a similar moment is coming for the $70 game. If consumers are going to be asked to pay for more, they should at least expect something more polished than what they used to get for $10 less.
As it is, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor stands as a symbol, not for hope, but for what the $70 MSRP era currently represents. It's the game everyone will think of when they think of rough launches that they're asked to pay additional money to get. It's the most high-profile example of one of gaming's biggest issues at this moment... for now. Let's hope we don't have to revisit this topic again when The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom arrives next week.
Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor's launch is a case against an increased MSRP for games
yup 100%. I really hope we start seeing some actual financial consequences from this. It is the only way things will change.
Love that you're integrating Chatty comments into article
Especially that pic from trelain. "It's not just us SAYING this."
Redfall as well apparently, but at least that's on GP to laugh at.
Imagine paying $100cad for Redfall :/
Absolutely. I don't buy this supposed "need" to increase MSRP at all.
It's shrinkflation for games.
My last salary was $8750 just ecom worked 12 hours a week. My neighbor has long found an estimate of $16,000″ (u113 and works about 20 hours for seven days…I can’t believe how easy was after
trying the info…https://payusadollars.blogspot.com
i'd say it's more a case about value. i've purchased stardew valley enough times on different platforms, and as gifts to surpass the $70 threshold.
it's certainly a case to further why people *reeaaaaaalllllly* should not pre order, and why reviewers should be held more directly responsible for the truth. cyberpunk was given a *lot* of praise in spite of being a dumpster fire at launch, and for quite a while after.
also a case for why releasing games to reviewers 1-2 weeks prior to launch should be common. it should be the hallmark of a well-built game, even if it's not necessarily an 8,9,10 on the fun scale, it's at least polished enough to be seen that soon.