Updated Nov 2, 2021 - Technology

2021 blockbuster video games keep shipping with parts missing

A zombie from Call of Duty Vanguard

Image: Activision

Friday’s release of “Call of Duty: Vanguard” won’t include the main quest for its popular cooperative multiplayer “zombies” mode, according to an Activision blog post. It will be added to the game weeks later.

Why it matters: It’s become common, especially this year, for big games to launch without all the expected parts. That puts the onus on players to buy today and get the rest of the game later.

  • EA’s “Madden NFL 22” launched in August without a planned and much-anticipated scouting feature that was added in October.
  • “Halo Infinite” will arrive in early December without support for campaign co-op nor a new version of the series’ “Forge” map editor. Both are staples of the franchise and are scheduled to be added to the game in 2022.
  • While “Vanguard” will launch without that Zombie quest, it’ll have its main WWII solo campaign, competitive multiplayer and other Zombie content, so it’s unlikely it’ll feel skimpy.

Between the lines: The “Call of Duty” zombies team hasn’t provided a reason for the mode’s delayed rollout, but developers of other games in this situation have cited the need for added polish.

  • Games can generally be delayed when they’re not all done, but in some of these cases, we’re simply seeing features delayed.
  • And we’re seeing game makers gamble that players will find enough remaining in the offered package to make it worth their $60 anyway.
  • The process dovetails with the near-ubiquity of seasonal content updates that add more to big-budget games for months or even years after release. Those updates just didn't usually include major, core modes.

Flashback: Nothing in gaming is entirely new. Back in 2009, Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed II” shipped without chapters 12 and 13 in its 14-chapter story, which were added later as paid downloadable content.

  • "I felt that, 'OK, there were too many things to do and to finish,'" the series’ then-creative director Patrice Désilets told me at the time.
  • "So we said, 'OK, let's take a portion of the game that was planned and we'll give it in DLC.'"
  • The notable difference: missing content in 2021’s games is expected to be added post-release for free.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify that there will be zombie content in "Call of Duty: Vanguard" at launch.

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