Buttons, I think the answer to any “What would X prefer” question just can’t be answered without a clear alternative. People ask “Should the Sox trade David Ortiz?” Well, if they get eight stars, yes. If they get a tuna hoagie, no. You need to know what you’re getting.
So to ask “would gamers prefer us to work on save points or more content?” begs the question: what new content? What new features? What’s our choice? Or, if we can’t choose ahead of time (which we can’t), what was it we gave up? And what did we get in return?
People like clarity. If they can’t have what they want, they are usually satisfied with a clear answer as to why they didn’t get it. If the Sox don’t trade Ortiz, don’t get the pitcher they need, for example, some fans might be annoyed. But if they come out when the deadline passes and explain that every team also wanted Boegarts, De La Rosa and Bradley, then the fans will understand and be ok with it.
Which leads to another serious issue: Devs are WAY too secretive about the process of what they do. Now, I get that games are technical products, and laws and business practices require a lot of secrecy. There’s no way we could reasonably expect devs to, say, divulge the code of the unreal engine. But after release, it would do both devs and gamers good if you guys would come out and explain why you did what you did.
Even things that aren’t “secret” aren’t explained. I’ve been an avid gamer for years and I had no idea that Sony and MS put caps on save data. Why doesn’t a dev just come out post release and say “Hey, look, you got three save slots because of a data cap on your box?” Gamers, like people disappointed by a lack of a trade in baseball, might not be thrilled, but at least they’d be satisfied that there was a reason behind it, and a valid one at that.
If people continue to ask questions, like “Why didn’t you find a way around that?” then explain “Well, if we had, we wouldn’t have had the money to put in those three side quests, or that NPC you love,” or whatever. Be specific.
People don’t like to feel like they’re being bamboozled. They don’t like to feel that they paid 60 bucks for laziness. But once they understand that it isn’t laziness, that the people they just gave 60 bucks to not only tried their best, but went above and beyond and how, then gamers will be happier, and, therefore, so will devs.
So be more open. Not about pre-release gameplay demos, or vertical slices (we know they’re just there to bamboozle us) or the story of games. But do what other artists do. Explain why you made the choices you did. Explain why things were impossible. Help us understand why we got what we did, and what we can expect the next time we buy a game. We want to know. When we get it, we’ll trust you more. And everyone will be happier.