New Game! Excitement! Eagerness! Then the crushing disappointment that leads to creative cursing as something goes horribly wrong on Launch Day with that game you have been waiting to play for months – if not years. Some of these have recovered – sort of – others are still in crash dive and a few have crashed and burned. I’m going to give you a quick rundown of some of the worst game launches in recent history and dig just a tiny bit into the what went wrong before, on and after launch day.
5. World of Warcraft (2004, Blizzard Entertainment)
Going back a decade and a half, one of PC gaming’s worst launches would be the MMO World of Warcraft. With 40 servers, Blizzard had not anticipated the hordes of excited players who were eager to get a taste of their title. In short, the servers simply could not handle the demand.
The queues to login number into the thousands and login in during those early days meant getting online and then being dumped back out to the rear of an incredibly long queue. Doubling the number of servers to 80 did not help and Blizzard stopped shipping boxed copies due to just how overtaxed their servers had become.
Game developers routinely joke -privately – that this is a “good problem” to have as it shows that the game is profitable and will be a money maker, the problem, however, continues to plague Blizzard with nearly every expansion that they have released for their 10 billion dollars profitable product. Fortunately, Blizzard moved fast and got the situation under control quick enough which allowed the game to not only survive but continue to thrive. It remains one of the few Premium MMO titles that remain profitable to this day.
4. Dead Island (2011, Techland)
Developers have a lot on their minds when their game’s launch date is fast approaching. How much they have on their minds demonstrated how even the most obvious things can be overlooked at launch: Dead Island developers Techland somehow released a development build instead of the finished game to Steam. To say that it was an unoptimized, buggy port that had cheats built in for invulnerability and ghosting through walls.
Compounding the release day problems was their attempts to fix the issue by getting the right build out there. Players lost progress, save games were corrupted, and ongoing quests at the time of the patch were suddenly irreparably glitched forcing everyone to start a new game.
Fortunately, they caught this one relatively early and after release the right build, and issuing dozens of patches that fixed the issues and created several other glitches, they finally got the game to where it was supposed to be. It’s an object lesson in bad game launches, which puts it at number 4 on my Worst PC gaming launches. This disastrous launch might have been a contributing factor to the cancellation of Dead Island 2.
3. SimCity 5 (2013, Maxis & EA)
Maxis is a studio that made real-time simulation famous with a plethora of “Sim- “titles in the 1990s. Amongst the most enduring would be SimCity. Then EA took it over and proudly released SimCity 5. “Sin-City” would have been a better name for this title and its debacle of a launch.
Beyond the usual gamut of server errors, login issues (due to the launch day rush), the biggest gripe longtime fans of the city management simulation sent them from unhappy to irate: – There would be no offline mode. You need an internet connection to play a single player game. Fans went from irate to furious when they realized you didn’t actually play directly with anyone when playing multiplayer either. Misinformation about the offline mode was the least of it.
That only emerged in the weeks’ post-launch because the game was not playable on launch day – or for its first official week. EA disabled game features so people could play. And logging in to play meant discovering that city sizes were capped, and citizen AI was a lot less than promised. It went from the sublime to ridiculous as EA first stated that an offline mode was impossible, and then proceeded to add the aforementioned mode a few months later. The game launch was a disaster for developer and publisher and is number 3 on my list of PC gaming’s worst launches.
2. No Man’s Sky (2016, Hello Games)
The pre-launch hype around No Man’s Sky was in one word: – Insane. I’ve been gaming since 1990 and the days of the original DOOM and I have never seen any game as hyped up as this title was. It set off warning bells and red flags and I went in to with much lower expectations that many did. All of us were crushed by this deep space explorations crippling launch issues.
The list is long, ranging from FPS drops, audio and video stuttering, screen-tearing, crashing on startup, crashing on the galaxy map, and just crashing in general. These problems persisted after a two-month delay and a Day 1 Patch that reset servers, wiped progress and “fundamentally changed the game.”
Then came the biggest betrayal by Hello Games, only discovered when players tried to meet N greet, and in a word, couldn’t. Then we proceeded to find out that the promised multiplayer features were not in the game. Although the promise features were added in new patches and feature heavy updates, including true multiplayer in the No Man’s Sky Universe, it still ranks as one of PC gaming’s worst launches.
1. Fallout 76 (2018, Bethesda Softworks)
I don’t really know where to begin with this one. Fallout76 was in trouble long before the launch. The writing was on the wall with the very, very bizarre beta testing schedule that made the game available for a few hours a day, every couple of days. Launch Day came, legions of fans were eager to get back in the Wastelands. Despite a warning from Bethesda that there “could be “spectacular” bugs and issues.
That was putting it mildly. Basic common-sense features, options, and settings weren’t available. Servers were beyond buggy and glitchy. Players disconnect, crash to desktop or having their entire PC suddenly stutter step and freeze up. For PC gamers, this was as bad as having Anthem potentially brick your Console.
Promises were broken over the $200 power armor edition where the glamorous canvas bag was replaced with a nylon sack, and compensation was a grand total of 500 in premium currency – which buys nothing in the in-game store. From the Preorder betrayal to the weird hours of the beta, to an unplayable buggy mess that could not give you a stable connection, Fallout76 is easily the worst pc game launch of 2018 and is the definitively the worst PC gaming Launch ever.