Amakh said that consumers and investors (I know all the owners of Epic and he's not one so I don't know why he thinks he qualifies to comment for "investors") should hold companies more accountable. Accountable for what? Release date or quality? Software development is not an exact science. You can only truly have one or the other. Either we're going to go for quality and release date will be variable or we're going to go for release date and quality will be variable. At Epic our future is on the line every time we ship a game so we choose quality over release date and we know it is the right choice. In fact customers have proven to us that it is the right choice. UT was on store shelves and selling well for an extremely long time - far longer than most games ever stick around for. That's because it was a quality product and word-of-mouth drove continued demand for it. A year after release UT was still going strong with the Game of the Year edition selling TONS of copies. If the game had been buggy or incomplete that never would have happened - in fact it would never have won all those Game of the Year awards in the first place.
Today there are nearly as many people playing UT as there were when it was at the height of its popularity. As I write this GameSpy's stats show UT as the #3 online shooter well ahead of many games that have come out this year or last year and UT is nearly three years old! So all you customers out there have proven to us that this is the absolute right strategy and I think you are right to expect an equally good game from UT2003.
Think about it. As a consumer are you happy when you get a game that is rushed or buggy? It's not possible to eliminate all software bugs but there are tons of games that ship every year that are full of problems. Some of them even get good review scores because in the rush to build publicity and get games out publishers often let magazines review beta copies. Those beta reviews seem to always overlook obvious bugs and problems because they assume they'll be fixed before release. But that is seldom the case because a developer or publisher who puts a beta in the hands of a magazine and says "ok, review this beta" is probably working under massive release date pressure to begin with,
At Epic we're willing to sacrifice a little marketing timeliness and sales predictability in exchange for a product that has a longer shelf-life, a larger customer base and more satisfied customers that will come back time and again to buy our games knowing that we back it up with some of the best post-sales support in the business. Between Epic and DE we created FOUR free add-on packs for the original UT. I'm not saying we're going to be able to repeat that for every game but we have a strong history of providing after-sales support for our products and it is something we value and cherish and we think our customers value and cherish.
Something people seem to forget it has been a relatively short period of time since we announced this game. We didn't officially announce it until January of this year. Look at all the hype generated by some of the games at E3 that won't even be on store shelves 12 months from now! Do you even remember how long ago they announced Neverwinter Nights, Warcraft III, Metroid Prime, Duke Nukem Forever or Freelancer? Do you think DOOM III will make it to market in a period shorter than the time between the UT2003 announcement and the arrival of the game? Granted we made the same mistake with Unreal II but we are trying not to repeat past mistakes and sticking vehemently to "when it's done" is one way of doing that.
So perhaps our friend Amakh is referring to shareholders of our publisher Infogrames when he says "investors". I personally hold some stock in Infogrames that was converted from GT Interactive stock when Infogrames bought that company. Let's use GT as the example here because they’re a great demonstration of what happens to a company when they put release dates before quality. GT was so release-date driven they'd often release unfinished games so they could tell their shareholders that they had control of their schedules. That strategy NEVER helped their shareholders. In fact I always questioned why releasing a flop on time was more important that getting the game right and maximizing the sales from it. What people don’t seem to realize is that it costs just about as much money to support the release of a crappy game as it does to support the release of a good one. Magazine pages still have to be bought, end-caps still have to be purchased, in store-promotions still have to be done and boxes still have to be manufactured and shipped all over the world. So when those games flopped and got returned or marked-down what then did they tell their shareholders? Well they told them nothing. The stock tanked and the bank balance dwindled to the point where a buyout from Infogrames was the only alternative to outright bankruptcy. So I don't believe for a moment that forcing games out before they're done is in the best interests of "investors".
We know you folks are anxious for a great game. But in the long run getting it right is more important, to both us and YOU, than getting it right now.