Videogames are one of the most popular entertainment mediums today and there are big dollars to be made. Similarly, game development is now an expensive affair, with development costs of games putting many big budget movie production budgets to shame.
In such a grand scheme of things, it’s easy to lose track and cross the line as far as ambition and release dates go. Publishers work on tight schedules to please investors and that in turn results in the development team grinding their way to the launch dates. Although, often the team manages to carry it off and launch a game smoothly, there are other times when things go terribly wrong.
We look at some of the most shaky and embarrassing videogame launches ever today.
World of Warcraft
The first real MMORPG that has arguably made the most money ever as well as ruined more lives than any videogame has come close to. That’s mostly due to how addictive the game was. However, Blizzard when it launched WoW had no clue what it was walking into.
On launch day, everything was a mess, mostly due to poor server resources. It was near impossible to get a game, there were many crashes and a myriad of other issues due to more than expected user numbers.
Since, Blizzard didn’t have anything to work on, it took them nearly a month before things got better and the rest as they say is history.
Hellgate: London was marketed as being the next big multiplayer experience. The game was promoted aggressively all the way till its launch on Halloween 2007. However, the Hellgate isn’t meant for mere mortals and as soon as gamers begun playing the game, all hell literally broke loose.
The game was a buggy affair and players were unable to log in due to poor server optimization. Things didn’t seem to improve much but they definitely got worse. Two weeks later a patch was released that forced a majority of the players to completely wipe off their progress in the game. What’s more, reports started coming in that players were being billed multiple times for the same thing, were not able to access things they paid for, and the game was practically unplayable.
Things never improved for this game and the developers who had no prior experience in making anything remotely close to what they tried to achieve with this game, pulled the plug on the game’s servers two years later.
Only a handful of games were as hyped up as Diablo III. A sequel that people wanted for years and the backing of Activision Blizzard had gamers salivating at the prospect of playing it. Blizzard made sure gamers didn’t have to wait long as it made the option of pre-loading the game available to them, which meant as soon as it launched, they could immediately jump right in.
However, the game came with the dreaded always-online DRM system that required users to have an active internet connection to do anything in the game. This gave birth to the infamous ‘error 37’ and gamers the world over were left frustrated. The error prevented them from connecting to Blizzard’s servers and in turn denied them of doing anything in the game.
Without being able to connect, the game was simply inaccessible and it showed no matter how big a company you’re, online gaming can be a tricky affair. The shaky launch ensured that Diablo III could never reach its true potential as gamers moved away as quickly from the game as they approached it.
Half Life 2
With game development sweethearts Valve helming the development duties, what could possibly go wrong with Half Life 2? Well, almost everything! Half Life 2 was the first game that required users to have Steam client installed in order to play. Valve had enabled pre-load for the game as far back as August 2004, while it released in November, and all users had to do was download a small code file to access it.
However, Valve failed to foresee what millions of users could do to their servers and the launch was a traicwreck. Players were unable to access the game or do anything for that matter, leaving them high and dry. This prompted many to declare that Steam was the worst thing ever that happened to gaming and there was chaos all around. It took them quite a while before they managed to fix everything.
The WarZ (Infestation: Survivor Stories Classic)
WarZ’s launch was no less than a zombie apocalypse, it was a sheer disaster. The game was in the news right from the time it was announced since many considered it to be a cash-grab attempt off the success of ARMA 2’s mod DayZ.
The name, the premise, and the concept were all copied from the mod but the practices that the developers put into gear was what made gamers rage. Not only did you have to pay to purchase the game, the game had taken micro-transaction levels to the extremes, but it didn’t stop there, you actually had to pay a fee in order to spawn after getting killed (unless you wanted to wait a few hours). That had people raging all over the internet. Things came to a head when it launched on Steam and there was a massive backlash across the internet against the game.
This forced Steam to take it down merely two days after it was released on the service. Valve didn’t re-initiate it till months after it released. The developers even changed the name of the game but it didn’t help much since it remains one of the most hated games to date.
Final Fantasy XIV
The Final Fantasy series was in a downward run for quite a few years now but the launch of Final Fantasy XIV, Square Enix’s second MMO, took it to a whole new level. The game, to put it bluntly, was a broken mess.
Not only were their ample server issues, but the interface, gameplay mechanics and overall concept of the game was flawed. People weren’t able to figure out a lot of things while playing the game and the levels were designed poorly with several performance issues. What’s worse, the game actually punished players for playing it for long hours, which was the core audience for any MMORPG.
Square Enix finally took the game off the shelves and switched off the servers, vowing to re-release it after they worked on the issues. It did re-release it a few months later as “Realm Reborn” and the game went on to become one of the most enjoyable and balanced MMORPG experiences to date. A happy ending.