Last week I took a journey back through the worst gaming hardware launches I could think of. They were full of long lines and product shortages. The silver lining for most of those products was how quickly the anger and frustration washed away as soon as you finally had one in your hand. Bad video game launches, on the other hand, don’t always end with that happy ending. Some games may be able to build themselves back up once things smooth out but others never recover. Just a mention of some games will make players’ heads explode years later. I’ve gathered up 7 of the worst video game launches, so if you trigger easily you may want to stop reading now.
- Release Date: March 5, 2013
- Developer: Maxis
The SimCity franchise has been around since the original Sim City launched in 1989. After multiple sequels, the franchise had a 10-year hiatus on PC. When the series returned in 2013 with its fifth major release the launch went off worse than a poorly planned traffic system.
SimCity launched as an online-only title, even for those who only wanted to play solo. As you probably guessed, server issues meant many players were unable to download or play the game over the weekend after launch.
EA’s response was less than stellar. Servers were added throughout the weekend but players continued to have issues. All of the server issues may have been a blessing in disguise, though. Once more people started playing the game other problems started rearing their ugly heads. Although the graphics were top-notch for the time, the maps in this iteration were noticeably smaller than previous versions due to performance issues on larger maps. The Sims AI was also a step backward from previous games, something you never want to see in a sequel.
- Release Date: October 23, 2018
- Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Fallout 76 had a lot of bugs at launch. That’s pretty much a given for a Bethesda game so that isn’t the only -only was a major negative sitting at the top of many players naughty list. So was the absence of NPCs.
It’s easy to pull out the pitchforks and torches and treat Bethesda like a monster, but we are partially to blame. Gamers are always asking for online multiplayer, Bethesda just took it a little too far and mad FO76 online only.
We’re also always complaining about theme park experiences and how we want sandbox games where we can do whatever we want. Bethesda listened and did away with the quest givers and let us do whatever we wanted. Then we sat there and complained there wasn’t anything to do.
Shame on Bethesda, but shame on us too.
World of Warcraft
- Release Date: November 23, 2004
- Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Most people think of World of Warcraft as one of the best MMORPGs of all time. The game didn’t start off that well, though, The terrible launch of the wildly anticipated MMO probably would have taken it from first to worst if it happened in today’s world.
When World of Warcraft launched in 2004 there’s a good chance that your spot in the queue was in the thousands. Players would wait in line for hours just to get into the game. Then, once they finally got in, there was major lag, causing rubber-banding, lost loot, and disconnects that could lose character save data. Then you’d go to log back in, only to be stuck at the back of the line again. This still happens with popular games at launch, but it doesn’t happen for weeks on end like it did with WoW.
No Man’s Sky
- Release Date: August 9, 2016
- Developer: Hello Games
What happens when a developer can’t deliver on the hype they’ve created for their games? You get No Man’s Sky. Two things could have changed the negative reception that NMS received at launch.
First, if Hello Games would have given us previews of gameplay with planets and creatures that were representative of what they would have at launch players would have been fine with it. Yes, some of the creatures the generator made at launch were absurd. But without the expectation set by what we were shown, those wacky creatures would have been cute and loveable. Players would have spent hours hunting for the craziest abominations the universe had to offer and then proudly post them across the internet for others to enjoy.
As for the second misstep, a simple, “We intend to bring multiplayer to No Man’s Sky, but unfortunately it won’t be ready at launch” would have solved the issue. Sure, many players were looking forward to exploring with their friends out among the stars and would have been disappointed. They wouldn’t have been lied and deceived, though, and that would have gone a long way in keeping their trust.
Final Fantasy XIV
- Release Date: September 30, 2010; August 27, 2013
- Developer: Square Enix
If you aren’t into MMORPGs or Final Fantasy you may not know about this one. How bad was it? Well, after its launch in September 2010, it received unanimous thumbs down from critics and players. Just a couple of months after launch the producer and director of development were replaced by Naoki Yoshida, who was tasked with fixing all the problems. The upcoming launch on the PlayStation 3 was put on hold indefinitely and the monthly subscription for the PC version was suspended. After several updates, the game was deemed unfixable, and just two years after launch the game servers were shut down on November 11, 2012. For Square Enix, this failure was a large stain on an otherwise positive record.
The story doesn’t end there, though. Instead of accepting failure and moving on, Yoshida was allowed to work on a reboot of the game to regain the trust of the players. The team scrapped the original code and had to rewrite the entire game. A little more than two years after shutting off the servers, on August 24, 2013, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn was resurrected from the ashes of the original game. Under the guidance of Yoshida, FFXIV has continued to thrive since its relaunch, proving that gamers are willing to forgive and forget as long as you follow up failure with a great game.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
- Release Date: December 1982
- Developer: Atari
Of all the games on this list, ET is the only one credited with being the gaming industry’s demise. To be fair, there were plenty of bad games prior to the crash of ‘83 but given the success of the movie the year before, E.T. was the most high-profile failure of the time.
To put it nicely, the game sucked. The graphics were considered some of the worst of the era. That’s quite a feat considering what the Atari version of Pac-man had to offer. The gameplay was even worse than the graphics. I suppose that’s about all you can expect out of a game that only had a 5 week development period.
- Release Date: January 25, 2019
- Developer: Bioware
Woulda been a good launch if there weren’t so many technical issues.
Coulda been a success story if Bioware and EA had tempered expectations.
Shoulda had at least one sexual relationship in the storyline.
If you ask anyone that played Anthem if the combat is any good, odds are they will tell you yes. The Javelin suits looked awesome, and flying around the battlefield killing baddies was a joy. Then, as soon as they utter their last word about combat, their soft, smiling eyes will turn dark and angry. They’ll start rattling off all of the things they found wrong with the game. The servers were unstable. Multiplayer was iffy at best. The loot grind was horrible and you had to exit the open world to install any new gear you found. And how could Bioware make a game that didn’t let you have sex with anyone you talked to?
When they finally addressed some of the issues, it was too little, too late. Bioware continually missed deadlines on updates and content additions. When they did finally release an update players found it underwhelming, bringing back memories of No Man’s Sky levels of falling short of expectations.
It still hasn’t stopped Bioware from working on the game. They continue to chirp about how Anthem 2.0 will fix everything. Hopefully, it isn’t just another pipe dream for Bioware to smash over our heads.