There are few emotions in the world that exceeds the excitement when you rush home after just purchasing a new game. The upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain will resemble something like that for me as I’ve pre-ordered the Collector’s Edition (I know, I am the problem). Problem is these days you don’t get to rip the plastic off the package and insert the game into your console to play right away – there’s always a f#$kin patch!
Now, those who download their games, or pre-install it digitally, have that option to do so beforehand, but not all of us have that kind of luxury. Also, quite honestly, I prefer holding a physical copy of a game in my hand and the digital “Collector’s” or “Limited” bundles never quite feel like anything but a cheap cash-in. These day one patches can range from anything from as little as several MB’s to several GB’s. In some cases, like Halo: The Master Chief Collection, you’d literally download an entire game, because they were ‘too cheap’ to include another disc. I long for the 2-10MB Xbox 360 day one patches. But I’m not really here to bitch about the day one patch – that’s something we expect nowadays. I’m referring to those bastard ‘Oh look, I’m here to waste your time again’ patches. It affects both physical and digital game purchases.
I find that whenever I turn on the PS4 or Xbox One there’s either a firmware update or a patch for a game that you’d like to play. What’s that you say? Use the standby mode that automatically downloads the various patches and updates? Nope, nope, nope. With load shedding in our country it’s frankly not a viable option and, secondly, I’m petrified that I’d end up with my fourth PS4 because of standby mode. I simply do not trust that it’s a healthy solution to the problem, especially post warranty days.
Recently I had to download 7GB for Ori and the Blind Forest. This after 4 days since downloading the game. It’s the size of the entire game and resulted in me waiting several days to download it as I did not have enough cap to do the download the enormous patch. I’m on LTE, and uncapped is not an option. Even if you are on an uncapped solution the 7GB update is basically the entire game redownloaded, which is laughable in its own right. You’d have to wait several hours before being able to play the game. Driveclub, for example, also have massive updates, but in that case the developers are generally adding tracks, cars and important updates. I can just about forgive them, though the updates could happen more infrequently. So what about playing it offline? Generally that’s a great way to go about avoiding this dilemma, until The Witcher 3 played a nasty trick on me.
My wife, who owns her own Xbox One, planned a Witcher 3 session over the weekend and was greeted by a 7.1GB update. I made a suggestion that she should play the game offline and, would you know it, it had registered that an update was required and would not allow her to play the game offline at all. So, here you’ve now paid roughly R800 for a game and it won’t allow you to play the game at all, unless you update it. So it begs the question – is a console still really a console? Last time I checked consoles were all about simplicity with a plug and play concept. That plug and play theory is now out the window and we’re sitting with confused PC’s that aren’t allowing us to play our games the way we want it to be played. I’d love to know how much time I’ve spent staring at a download screen since this generation kicked off.
I’m exceptionally thankful that I own more than one console, so I can play something else on another console, while the other one is downloading whatever it might be. But it’s now got to a point where I often find myself watching a series or movie, while I wait to play. And, when it’s finally downloaded, it’s generally time to go to bed. I do understand that not all patches are pointless, and that game development is much more complicated these days, but to me this whole ‘download patches every time you want to play something’ scenario has become a game of patience all in its own. I doubt it’s going to change. We’ll be updating games and consoles until we turn blue in the face. Like me, you’ll have to learn to live with it, though I’ll never quite accept it.