When did it suddenly become acceptable to delay a game days before release?

NOTE: This was originally meant for an October 2, 2009 publish date, but I accidentally hit ‘Save Draft’ instead of ‘Publish’ and so it is being released over a week late.

Three times this year, a game was suddenly delayed only days before the release – Jumpgate: Evolution, Dungeons and Dragons: Eberron Unlimited and now Alpha Protocol. When did this become acceptable practice? How did you not know that the product wasn’t ready until this close to the ship date? Did you suddenly realize that you compeltely forgot to start work on the game?

All three of these games were ones that were on my radar, but by missing their release window, they’ve now lost my attention. Jumpgate and D&D were both MMOs that could’ve caught me and got me into it prior to my World of Warcraft binge lately, and Alpha Protocol was set to be the appetizer to the holiday season on the consoles. Now that I have WoW taking all my MMO time and I will soon have the main course of the holidays, all three of these games are no longer something I will buy. Not out of anger or defiance, but because none looked that good, and were merely well timed decent games.

More to the point, however – why is this happening so much lately? Alpha Protocol was due on next Tuesday, but suddenly gets delayed until sometime in 2010? The dev team must’ve known several weeks ago that this window was unlikely to be reached, so why delay the news? Gamers are used to delays, it happens all the time, but this recent style of delay just aggravates me. Maybe I should refuse to buy out of anger, because this is a shitty move on their part.

D&D was only delayed a few weeks, so that one wasn’t as bad, but Jumpgate has no excuse. A week or two before the launch of an ambituous MMO, it is suddenly delayed indefinitely. I can’t understand how that happens. Even from my perspective as a programmer, I can’t understand. A delay of a month is acceptable, but to suddenly push it back to who-knows-when?

I hope this trend stops and I hope it stops real soon.

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