Thank you for freely sharing your expertise with the public! When a game is not performant or seems to have trickling support on release, some online users will speculate that “the publishers don’t care now that the shareholders have their money.” This seems counterintuitive to me. I’d anticipate that releasing a poor product — even if it led to a short-term windfall — would be terrible long-term business management. We gamers can be quick to impugn motives, but is there any truth to that?

The answer is “sometimes”. Generally speaking, no one plans or wants to release a poor product, nor is anyone pleased that a poor product is released. However, when you already know that the product is going to be a dud, it makes sense to try to minimize the damage. We can observe this kind of “harm reduction” in other industries too. For example, movies that the studios do not have much confidence in will often purposely embargo movie reviews until release day to minimize their potential audience from being turned off by negative reviews.

This occasionally happens with video games as well, and for the same reason - the decisionmakers on the production side know it’s a bad product and they’ve decided it’s worth the damage to the reputation to recoup a little more money from their investments. They are choosing to make a trade - their reputation for less financial damage. As a result, the companies who have the best reputations are the ones that have the most to lose from this tactic. Conversely, those with middling or bad reputations have the least risk in doing this. The necessity of such a decision often depends heavily on the state of the publisher’s financials.

The thing is that no one in this situation, not the shareholders, not the publishing executives, not the marketing team, not the development team, is actually pleased by this. This tactic isn’t going to result in a profit unless you can keep development and marketing costs way down, and that’s only happening with shovelware (which moved to the mobile space because of the costs involved). This is damage control, where the publisher knows it failed and is just trying to reduce the damage they know is incoming. Nobody wants to get punched in the face, but if the punch is unavoidable, you may as well try to roll with it to reduce the damage taken.

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