This is a tough call. When I was a newcomer to indie game development, making smaller budget games with fewer sales, I used to think we had a huge advantage over the AAA guys. A triple A game (in almost *all* circumstances) HAS to ship in a specific month. They do this because the ad-buy has been scheduled, the contracts for PR people have been written, the availability of release slots for portals and platform holders is agreed, the finances are in place to pay everyone assuming that is the ship date, and so on… So what happens if the game is not fun two months before release?
Tough Tough Tough. Maybe everyone could work evenings and weekends (like they hadn’t secretly allowed for that anyway?) and maybe everyone can put in some extra effort…but it’s a really BIG DEAL in financial and PR terms if you push back the ship date.
As an indie, this is not the case, so we can be a bit smug and say ‘it’s done when it’s done’.
Except increasingly… this gets hard to do. The problem isn’t so much financial – luckily I could work another year on the current game and not be short of money to buy food, but one of scheduling. If you want the PR people, the guy making a trailer, and so on to be available towards the end of a project (when everything is nailed down and won’t change) you need to book them early. More relevantly to me, I only want to appear at trade shows showing off a close to release game, not an early alpha. If redshirt and Democracy3 were June 2014 releases, I doubt I’d show them at rezzed or anywhere else yet. Not because it’s ‘too early’, but because doing shows is EXPENSIVE and you want to pick your battles. Promoting a game you can buy next month or NOW makes more sense to me.
I’m fussy enough to be able to throw my arms in the air and say “We must wait another year dammit!” on my games, although luckily both are coming along nicely, but it’s something as an indie you have to keep an eye on. You don’t just need to make sure you have cashflow to pay the bills until the ship date, you need to have a release date in mind for lots of reasons.