From: Madrid, Spain
I look at it that if you cant meet the expectations of the user then you should push his expectations back because he wont notice.
Developer: "X game will come out with an AI and network play, internet play, PBEM"
User: "oh boy it has an AI it will be challenging"
Users always expect more from an AI than is suggested.
When the user gets the game they are disappointed and will play once then bad mouth the game to others ignoring the good parts. The game developer failed to meet the expectation of the user, indirectly, because users expect more. We all hope for an awesome AI.
Developer: "X game will not have an AI in this current version but we will have one in a later patch. We have over the internet play, network play, PBEM.
User: "oh boy network play, too bad it doesnt have AI play so I better start getting some opponents."
In this case the developer has to make it as easy as possible to make sure users can get opponents which is far simpler, and less time consuming, then writing a soso or crappy AI. In the end the user will talk about the "fun game over the internet" they had with their opponents. Their focus will be on the positive not the negative. You gave them a product that met their expectations, you got it out faster which allowed for free word of mouth advertising, and you provided a forum for users to get a very advanced opponent (other users).
But now there is the marketing side which happens in all industries.
If lets say in Jan of 2010 for the 1st year you can sell 1,000 copies @ $100 with an AI, not make the user completely happy and that is more than.
Coming out with the product in Jan 2009 with no AI and selling 800 copies in 2 years but making the user happy... well then its a simple money equation.
But now toss in future sales and a different twist even if a sale ISNT made on WIF....
X user buys product and is dissapointed because the AI is weak. Y user asks "how is WIF?" X user says "the AI sucks dont bother".... now Y user wont buy product. Future sales lost and maybe even future sales from the company is lost for other products.
now with no AI installed meeting expectations
X user doesnt buy product. Y user asks "did you buy WIF?", X user says "no it doesnt have AI", Y user might still inquire to the product realizing "well how does it play then? ooo network play. ooo they have GREAT support for finding opponents" Y user buys it, or at worst doesnt but doesnt hold a negative view of the developer.
Take War in Europe by Decision Games. They came out with the original with NO AI. Now they remade it better than their DOS version which was fairly good for its time.
People tend to focus on the negative and only remember that. Everyday we are bombarded by negative news, constantly, non-stop. Our brains are naturally attracted to it. People love to say whats wrong with something far more than whats right. So I think products should be geared to avoid that situation. I work in IT and we work that same way.
An executive has a broken laptop. He tells us he has a meeting in 2h30m and he needs it by then. We know we can fix it in 30m. We tell him it will take 1hr to fix it. So we get it done in 45m due to complications and he is happy because we exceeded his expectations of 1hr. If we told him 30m and took 35m he would only focus on the negative and file a complaint even though we were 5m late.
I think if WIF was put out before the AI was done word of mouth alone would make it sell more. AI could come out later. Also the programmer would get far more feedback from a wider field of players.
Im not an expert on marketing and it could very well be Im wrong in this case and even if the AI is poor people would still buy more than if it had no AI at all and this wouldnt affect future customers or products.
I agree that when expectations are low it easier to satisfy the customer, but if somebody tells me that the apple cake has no apple or maybe they will be able to serve some apple jam by the middle of my dessert, maybe I will simply have no dessert or eat ice-cream.