Compared to something like a movie or an album, a release date for a video game is something that's a bit more complex to figure out.
While it's not to say that one piece of art is more or less complex than the other, it's more that one would think video games are locked into a pipeline. After all, it's not as if they have actors who need to be on set all the time, or that they have to get an album out in time for a concert tour to promote it.
Generally speaking, developers don't announce release dates until they're good and ready because, well, they don't have to. Compared to other audiences, video games that are released ahead of when they're finished tend to be just that - unfinished. If you go to see a movie that's poorly made and unfinished, it's another story. You can forgive a tight schedule, maybe there's something in it in its unfinished state. Plus, it's one movie, maybe two hours out of your life that's gone and maybe €15 out of pocket.
Games retail for upwards of €60 today, and can often take weeks, if not months if you're time-poor like anyone over the age of 25 can be. That's a far bigger investment of time and money than a TV show or a movie, and as such, your expectations are higher for it. There's a quote by Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of 'Super Mario' and a legend in the gaming developer community, that's applicable here - "A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad."
Earlier this week, Naughty Dog confirmed that 'The Last of Us, Part II' would not be released until May 29th, 2020. In the Sony blog, creative director Neil Druckmann laid out his reasons for the delay in unambiguous terms.
"..it was during the last few weeks, as we were closing out sections of the game, that we realised we simply didn’t have enough time to bring the entire game up to a level of polish we would call Naughty Dog quality. At this point we were faced with two options: compromise parts of the game or get more time. We went with the latter, and this new release date allows us to finish everything to our level of satisfaction while also reducing stress on the team."
The latter part of the statement indirectly refers to a phenomenon in the gaming industry that's colloquially known as "crunch", and it's become a hot-button topic in recent years. What it means is essentially developers, programmers, the whole team of people who make games working way past what you'd consider normal hours to complete production on a game. We're talking literally sleeping in the office in some cases.
A report earlier this year by Polygon detailed how employees of Epic Games were often working 75 to 100 hour weeks in order to shore up issues with 'Fortnite: Battle Royale', resulting in poor work conditions and deteriorating health for contract staff. Dan Houser, one of the lead writers at Rockstar Games, detailed how staff worked - for a period leading up to the release of the game - close to 100 hours to get it over the line.
It's easy to think of video games as mass entertainment, but the fact is they're hand-made. They're made by people who love games, and want more than anything for people to enjoy their games. The question is can you enjoy 'The Last Of Us Part II' knowing that people worked punishing schedules in order to for you to have it?
Naughty Dog's decision to push back the release to May of next year will hopefully prevent this from happening, and it will mean that the game will be the better for it.