Compared to a TV series or a movie release, release dates in games are much more fluid.
In fact, gaming publishers purposefully keep release dates vague compared to movie studios or TV producers, who often lock in release dates months if not years in advance. Obviously, you can't compare the two on every facet, but there are a number of similarities. Movies and TV shows work with skilled, in-demand entities in the same way that the gaming industry does. Movies and TV shows engender audience demand by teasing details, gaming studios now actively work with online communities and social media to give a behind-the-scenes look at a game's development.
But where the difference lies is that when a movie studio or TV channel delays a release, it's a bad sign. When a gaming developer and publisher decide to push back a release date, it's a good sign. Again, the differences are myriad. There's always a belief that movies and TV shows are on a pipeline, and that if the problems are such that they have to be fixed at the latter end of production, then it's in trouble. Gaming developers work in a similar fashion, but the response from audiences is different.
They work in a pipeline, the idea is developed far in advance of production, but the difference between them is that gaming audiences - if not welcome it - but certainly understand delays in production. The oft repeated line, attributed to Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto, is that "a delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever" and gaming studios now often work on this understanding, and audiences accept.
Here's the Dying Light 2 Development Update. pic.twitter.com/CKMkAe2eD7
— Dying Light (@DyingLightGame) January 20, 2020
Just two days ago, Polish publishers Techland delayed 'Dying Light 2' indefinitely. In a statement posted to Twitter, Techland CEO Pawel Marchewka confirmed that the Spring 2020 release date was being pushed back to allow more time for development. "Our priority is to deliver an experience that lives up to our own high standards and to the expectations of you, our fans," Marchewka explained.
One of the most hotly anticipated games of the year, 'Cyberpunk 2077', was pushed back from an April release date to September. The current rumours surrounding the game's delayed release, reported by AltChar, is that current-generation consoles - namely, the Xbox One - aren't up to the task of managing the game's demands. 'Doom Eternal', another eagerly awaited game, had its release date shunted from late 2019 to March 20th, 2020 - the same release date as 'Animal Crossing: New Horizons' for the Switch, which itself pushed back its release date.
In the case of 'Animal Crossing: New Horizons', the developers reportedly moved the release date to avoid "crunch", a major issue in the gaming developer community. "Crunch" is the industry term for when gaming developers and designers work extra hours and weekends in order to ensure a game meets its intended release date. In 2018, GameInformer wrote an industry-wide exposé on crunch in gaming developers, and sparked off a conversation with staff and developers on how it was affecting workers' health and well-being.
Ultimately, the reason why studios move release dates is primarily because the potential losses from a bad game with poor sales far outweigh the consequences of moving a release date back six months or a year.
If the audience is willing to accept another six months' wait, then why not do it? Moreover, when audiences are now more aware than ever of the issues facing those who actually make the games they play, there's a level of understanding that wasn't there before.