At a press meeting in Tokyo yesterday, president of Square-Enix Yoichi Wada and vice-president of Namco-Bandai Shin Unozawa talked about the next generation of gaming and the importance of online features. They stressed this was not limited to MMO's but all future titles. A lot of the talk seemed to beat around the bush for lower development costs, citing ad placements in games (ramping it up for the online world ... ads are in a ton of games already, so possibly a randomized billboard or something? You know?) and software updates rather than gratuitous amounts of bug testing. Which is a patch, more or less.
So, is releasing software updates better than actually going through bug testing? Sure, it costs less, but those who've played games like Oblivion
know that these updates can come too late -- eternally trapped as a vampire since the quest to cure was bugged, unable to enter this guild or that, effectively losing many hours of work on the game. But would such a thing have been caught by bug-testers anyway? If nothing else, the release of next-gen games would be pushed back a lot farther without patches as an option.
Hopefully the PS3 will smartly incorporate software testing but not allow unfinished or unpolished games to reach the market (although it does happen...). Oh, about the Playstation 3, Unozawa tossed in: "The Playstation 3 will definately sell." That's nice of him to say! That's "definately" reassuring.