Video games are the biggest entertainment industry around, but there’s one thing big game studios don’t seem to have down: releasing games that work.
Imagine this: You go to the cinema, buy your tickets and snacks, and when you go to watch the film it starts freezing right in the opening scene. Or maybe there’s a queue of people waiting to view the film, and you’re in position number #3798 for your region. Or maybe you start watching a romantic comedy and none of the characters have skin. Ridiculous, right? And yet it happens with games.
Because most gamers have their system connected to the internet, there are usually bug fixes released relatively soon after launch, and so most major issues are resolved. But that could take days, or even weeks. In some cases, the studio just ignores the problems and leaves gamers in the lurch.
This has happened too many times to count, so here are just 15 examples of game launches that were colossal letdowns.
15 Simcity (2013)
Ooh boy. As far as terrible game launches go, this one might take the cake. Why? Because nothing worked and everything was terrible.
Even before this game’s release, there was much head scratching and angry muttering about the game’s requirement that players maintain an internet connection while playing. You know, because it doesn’t really make any sense, given the kind of game that it is.
It only added fuel to the fire when players couldn’t access the game after downloading it. And then there were ridiculous loading times, frequent crashing, and vanishing game data to contend with. To top it off, the game ended up disappointing many of its fans.
14 Half Life 2 (2004)
Many PC gamers love the Steam store and application. They also love Half Life 2, arguably to the point of insanity. So it must have been a bit of a shock to the system when Half Life 2’s launch took Steam down... and prevented players from playing Half Life 2.
Here’s why it was such a disaster. Until Half Life 2, unless you were purchasing a game directly off of Steam, there was no real need to use the program. And then Half Life 2 required that players download Steam to authenticate their version of the game. No Steam, no play. And there was no Steam, because the servers were overwhelmed by the influx of players at launch.
13 Halo: The Master Chief Collection (2014)
You should know right out of the gate that this list is going to feature a bunch of games that were just released. Partly it’s because this year’s crop of games was particularly bad, and partly because hey, you might be considering purchasing a broken game. That wouldn’t do.
So what was up with the MCC? For starters, it’s still not clear if the server issues for multiplayer have fully been fixed yet. Players were waiting far too long for a game, and when they finally got matched with other players, were often stuck in games with lopsided teams. It turns out playing 5v3 is fun for pretty much nobody.
Still, the updates have rolled out and it’s looking like things are at least better than they were.
12 World of Warcraft (2004)
The thing about multiplayer games is that they require multiple people to connect together to play. And often the servers can’t handle the volume of players. That was exactly the case with WoW, one of the biggest games ever. See, companies aren’t going to shell out for server strength they don’t need, and that makes sense – at the end of the day, they need to make a few bucks. With WoW, Blizzard had no idea just how many people were interested. It was overwhelmed and the product launch did not go well.
The game still became enormous, but gradually lost popularity over the years. Funnily enough, the most recent expansion brought back so many lapsed players that once again the servers couldn’t handle the load. Players were left queuing for hours to play the game they had purchased.
11 Skyrim (2011)
The internet loves to love Skyrim, but there was more than a little hate getting sent its way when it first launched. It was by most accounts a great game with plenty to do, but it had a bit of an issue in that it was just buggy beyond belief.
Xbox players complained about texture troubles. PS3 players had frame rate frustrations. Everybody had crashes, slowdowns, and game save corruptions to worry about.
Many of the biggest issues were solved in the following months, and with a dedicated modding community at work with the game, it’s a safe bet that just about any remaining wrinkles will be ironed out sooner or later (assuming you play on PC).
10 Batman: Arkham Origins (2013)
This game gets a lot of hate for not being made by the same makers as the other two games in the series, but it’s really a lot of fun to play. What wasn’t so much fun was that it was rife with technical problems right from launch.
The typical issues were what plagued this game. Frequent crashes, game-breaking glitches, and quirks that included falling out of the game’s world all gave gamers a headache. Though some issues were patched, eventually it seemed as though the development team sort of lost interest in trying to fix them, focusing instead on pushing out a chunk of downloadable content (that players would have to purchase in order to play).
9 Fallout: New Vegas (2010)
Back in 2010, Obsidian Entertainment put out a follow-up to 2008’s hit game Fallout 3. It was quite similar visually, but under the hood it had a mass of issues that left reviewers puzzled at how to proceed with reviewing the game. ARS Technica wrote a piece on it, wondering if it’s possible, or fair, to dissociate the intended game from the bugs that prevent players from enjoying it. The answer is still unclear.
So what made New Vegas so troublesome? The usual crashing, freezing, frame rate skipping stuff that plagues most games, as well as corrupted save files and quest issues that made playing the game impossible. Massive patches were released to address these problems.
8 GTA Online (2013)
Here’s the thing about GTA Online: it came attached to a game that was considered spectacular by most that played it. So it’s not as though they had nothing to do while their GTA Online functionality got worked out – they just played the standard GTA V story. But when you purchase a product, you want to have access to the entire thing, so there was considerable grumbling while Rockstar sorted out the issues.
Vehicles would disappear at random, cash would not generate, and various interface options and in-game functions just flat out did not work. It took about a month for some of the issues to be fixed.
7 NBA 2K15 (2014)
The 2K NBA series is considered one of the best sports simulation franchises around, so to have a product launch with as many issues as this year’s NBA 2K15 is not good for the legacy.
All kinds of complaints poured in about the game, with players upset about non-functioning online capabilities, in-game currency disappearing, and the nightmare-inducing monstrosities created by the face scan feature included with the game.
Since launching in October, the game has received multiple updates improving some elements of gameplay and correcting the many glitches plaguing players, including the aforementioned face scanning. Seriously, some of those things were terrifying.
6 Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (2014)
It was overshadowed by some of the other terrible launches of this past autumn, but make no mistake: this was not an achievement in releasing workable games.
Some of the suggested fixes early on were downright laughable. If you pre-downloaded the game for Playstation, it was recommended you delete and redownload the game – all 40 GB of it. For Xbox One, it was suggested that players not download the game update that they were prompted with when inserting the game disc. Doing so would make the game impossible to install.
To top it off, both Playstation and PC users complained about massive lag when trying to connect to multiplayer matches.
5 Titanfall (2014)
This one was actually corrected pretty quickly. Before that, though, not only was Titanfall not quite playable, but it took all of the Xbox One’s Live capabilities down with it.
Titanfall makes use of Microsoft’s Azure program’s scalable server capabilities, meaning the console does some of the work and the servers take care of the rest. The trouble came when, as always, the game’s initial wave of players tried to hop on the game and the servers couldn’t handle the volume.
Thing was, this was supposed to be “the game” for Microsoft. As with the Halo MCC, the failure to get the launch right might have cost them some momentum in their race to rack up console sales.
4 Diablo III (2012)
Blizzard was another company that fell victim to the always-online requirement it imposed on its game, frustrating the fans that raced to play the first installment in the series in 12 years.
As with WoW, the trouble was that the demand for the game far outstripped the sever capabilities the company had in place. As a result, players were locked out of the title, left to simmer with envy as they waited to join the lucky few who could access the game.
Though the troubled launch killed some of the enthusiasm for the game, it was still received quite well by fans and critics.
3 Battlefield 4 (2013)
When a company describes the launch of its own game as “unacceptable,” you know it must have been pretty rough. “Pretty rough” might not even cover what happened with Battlefield 4.
The game, which trades the arcade running and gunning of Call of Duty for a more tactical experience, was full of server connection issues, bugs, freezing, crashing, and a whole lot more. While it’s true that the game was ambitious in that it wanted to deliver a stellar visual experience AND enormous maps and battles for the Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC, none of that really matters when the game is unplayable, does it?
Months after launch many errors persisted, though the game should be playable by now.
2 Assassin’s Creed: Unity (2014)
Typically, it’s EA that gets the most hate from consumers. These days that delightful distinction goes to Ubisoft instead.
In 2013, the company released Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, which was received with much acclaim. In 2014 it released Assassin’s Creed Rogue, which was also received with some enthusiasm. It also released Unity. That one did not go so well.
Some of the computer controlled characters sometimes appeared without skin. The main character could fall through and into objects, and get stuck there. Multiplayer sessions were buggy. The menus were buggy. The in-game currency was buggy.
There have been three major patches, with a fourth supposed to arrive soon. Hopefully Ubi learns its lesson.
1 Drive Club (2014)
It’s hard to even know where to begin with this one. Driveclub was once meant to launch with the Playstation 4, then was delayed, and delayed again. When it finally launched, the stellar multiplayer functions it promised were unusable.
It was also meant to launch as a free release for Playstation Plus subscribers – at the same time that the other edition launched. The ongoing trouble with the regular version has pushed that back to... sometime. Eventually, probably. It still hasn’t released, is the point, and Driveclub launched in October.
There are still fixes being rolled out, but server performance is still problematic. This might just be the worst launch in a long, long time.