Fez, made by Polytron Corporation, was a highly anticipated puzzle/action game released exclusively on Xbox Live in the Spring. In June, Polytron released a patch that corrected a lot of different bugs and other issues in the game. It was quickly discovered though for a small percentage of users, the patch actually corrupted their save file. The patch was quickly pulled offline, and Polytron looked to fix the save corrupting issue. Well, we received an update about that patch today, and it isn’t pretty. From their blog on polytroncorporation.com:
We’re bringing the first FEZ patch online.
It’s the same patch.
We’re not going to patch the patch.
Why not? Because Microsoft would charge us tens of thousands of dollars to re-certify the game.
And because as it turns out, the save file delete bug only happens to less than a percent of players. It’s a shitty numbers game to be playing for sure, but as a small independent, paying so much money for patches makes NO SENSE AT ALL. especially when you consider the alternative. Had FEZ been released on steam instead of XBLA, the game would have been fixed two weeks after release, at no cost to us. And if there was an issue with that patch, we could have fixed that right away too!
We believe the save file corruption issue mostly happened to players who had completed, or almost completed the game. If you hadn’t already seen most of what FEZ had to offer, your save file is probably safe. It doesn’t happen if you start a new game.
We believe the current patch is safe for an overwhelming majority of players.
The patch fixes almost everything that’s been wrong with the game since launch. The framerate issues, the loading, the skips, the death loops, everything! All that stuff is fixed! And right now, nobody can get to it since the patch was pulled. For 99% of people, it makes FEZ a better game.
To the less-than-1% who are getting screwed, we sincerely apologize. We know this hurts you the most, because you’re the ones who put the most times into the game. And this breaks our hearts. We hope you don’t think back on your time spent in FEZ as a total waste.
Microsoft gave us a choice: either pay a ton of money to re-certify the game and issue a new patch (which for all we know could introduce new issues, for which we’d need yet another costly patch), or simply put the patch back online. They looked into it, and the issue happens so rarely that they still consider the patch to be “good enough”.
It wasn’t an easy decision, but in the end, paying such a large sum of money to jump through so many hoops just doesn’t make any sense. We already owe Microsoft a LOT of money for the privilege of being on their platform. People often mistakenly believe that we got paid by Microsoft for being exclusive to their platform. Nothing could be further from the truth. WE pay THEM.
So we’re going to go ahead and put Title Update back online, and for a vast majority of people it’s going to make FEZ a better game.
Thank you for your understanding and continuing support.
Sorry, but I don’t think this is right in the least.
I totally get for an independent developer, paying recert costs to Microsoft for an update is a hardship. I also get it only affects an incredibly small portion of their customers. And yeah, they pay Microsoft for the privilege of listing their game on Xbox Live.
But let’s not forget it was Polytron who decided they wanted that limited exclusivity on Xbox Live. I’m sure they easily could’ve released Fez on Steam, maybe even PSN, and maybe even iOS if they had wanted to. I’m not going to pretend I know how the publishing deals work for online publishing, because I don’t, but no one forced Polytron to make Fez a XBLA exclusive game.
Let’s also not forget this huge bug made it through their testing process, in addition to all the bugs that necessitated the initial patch in the first place. Again, bugs happen to most games in this day and age and QA isn’t full-proof, but again, it’s what led to this situation happening.
What Polytron seems to be forgetting is they are beholden first and foremost to the people who decided to buy their game. It might only be less than 1% of their users who are being hit with this save file corruption issue, but those 1% of users paid the same $10 to buy the game as the other 99% did, and they deserve better than what they’re getting in this instance.
I didn’t buy Fez because I was waiting for it to release on a platform I would prefer to play it on (see: PS3). If I had been one of the afflicted 1% though, I would be rightfully furious right about now. Even if it costs a substantial amount of money to recertify the game, Polytron knew that going into the deal with Microsoft. If they couldn’t afford to release necessary updates to make the game function properly, they shouldn’t have released it on XBLA in the first place. If I were one of these folks who’s save file got jacked up, only to then be abandoned by the game’s developer, I’d be shouting for them to refund my purchase. After all, why should I be expected to pay for an broken product if the maker of that product isn’t willing to properly support it?
To their credit, Polytron appears to be genuinely sorry and pissed about this turn of events, and I’m sure they feel terrible for letting a subset of their users down. It’s a bed they made for themselves though, and they have to be willing to live with the consequences. Putting up a blog post and essentially blaming everything on Microsoft isn’t right, and it isn’t fair. Again, they decided to go exclusive with Microsoft, so passing the buck isn’t the way to go about it. They need to own this mistake and remedy it however they can. It would surely be difficult to issue refunds on Xbox Live (I doubt Microsoft would be willing to partner with them on this), but how about making the game available for free to afflicted users when/if the game releases on other platforms?
I’ll be interested to see how this story evolves. If I had the opportunity to buy Fez (or any other Polytron game) right now, I wouldn’t. I just can’t get down with a company turning its back on its customers. I hope Polytron finds a way to make this right, because Fez was an excellent game by all accounts, and I’m sure they will have more great experiences to give to the gaming community. You have to do right by your customers though, and leaving a portion of your customers twisting in the wind, even if it’s a small portion, isn’t the right way to do business and won’t earn you any goodwill for anything else you want to do in the future.