A Bad First Impression
Up to 40% of a game’s total sales occur in the first month, according to the SSRN Electronic Journal. Consequently, the best strategy for studios is to ensure their titles launch with a bang. Some strategic marketing is necessary to achieve this. Piling up good reviews from critics and gamers is also vital, meaning it’s essential for games to launch in a polished state.
Over the years, a few titles have missed the mark terribly, resulting in catastrophic launches. The following list contains some of the worst offenders in gaming history.
10. WWE 2K20
The WWE franchise has had a long presence in the gaming scene, and titles like Smackdown! vs Raw 2006 and SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain are memorable games that successfully replicate the testosterone-flooded action of sports entertainment.
When WWE 2K20 launched in October 2019, day-one buyers ended up with a game sporting atrocious graphics that looked like they belonged on a PS3. The gameplay wasn’t any better, and the numerous glitches made WWE 2K20 a pain to play. The game’s terrible reception was one of the reasons WWE 2K21 was canceled. It was for the best, as when the franchise returned with WWE 2K22, it achieved double its predecessor’s launch sales.
9. New World
Amazon’s New World hit stores in September 2021, and the launch was nothing but chaos. Servers were flooded, resulting in players waiting for hours before they could start playing. When people were eventually able to play, they discovered that while the core game was good, it was also plagued with game-breaking glitches. Since release, plenty of updates have been pushed out, and the game is in a better state, but it failed to be the enduring classic that Amazon was likely aiming for.
When Anthem was announced, the flashy marketing successfully caught the attention of the gaming world. Unfortunately, when Anthem launched in 2019, it was immediately critically panned. Critics and gamers alike complained about many elements, including boring missions, technical glitches, poor performance, and excessive grinding. The game failed to meet EA’s expectations, and future developments for it were cut in 2021.
7. The Last of Us Part 1 (PC)
Though the PS5 version launched without any major issues, the PC port of The Last of Us Part 1 has been nothing short of a disaster. Players were greeted with technical issues and absurdly long loading times, making the game unplayable for some. Since launch, many have pointed the finger at Iron Galaxy, the studio Naughty Dog entrusted with the port. It won’t be the last time the studio appears on the list, so there may be some truth to the accusations.
6. Fallout 76
In 2018, Bethesda took Fallout online with Fallout 76. The game promised to allow players to explore dystopian settings with friends, which is an idea that has great potential. When Fallout 76 launched in November 2018, it was far from what gamers expected, resulting in the PC version scoring a measly 52 on Metacritic. Due to the bad press, many gamers stayed away, and as a result, Fallout 76 had lower launch sales numbers than Fallout 4 and Fallout New Vegas.
5. Batman: Arkham Knight (PC)
Arkham Knight‘s PS4 and Xbox One versions were developed by Rocksteady Studios, and the PC port was handed off to Iron Galaxy. This proved to be a mistake. When Arkham Knights launched on PC, it crashed constantly and featured technical issues that rendered it unplayable for many.
The situation got so bad that Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment suspended sales of the Windows version of the game in June 2015 while developers worked on patches to fix the game. Though the game has improved plenty, the historically disastrous launch won’t be forgotten any time soon.
The free-to-play sports game eFootball was released in September 2021. The concept wasn’t a bad one, though the execution left a lot to be desired. Gamers were met with atrocious graphics, endless technical issues, and visual bugs that have made for some hilarious screenshots. With a score of 25 on Metacritic, it is one of the lowest-rated games of all time.
3. Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition
When it was revealed that the GTA trilogy would receive a remake, excitement was high. Launch day arrived in November 2021, and gamers were less than satisfied. The trilogy was rife with technical issues, ugly character models, and visual errors, which should have been spotted during the QA phase of development. To placate fans, Rockstar offered the original trilogy to all customers who had purchased the remake via the Rockstar Store.
2. Cyberpunk 2077
Cyberpunk 2077 is a title that has been a ubiquitous fixture in gaming for years, and not always for good reasons. When Cyberpunk 2077 launched in 2020, the experience was so bad droves of gamers demanded refunds, and Sony eventually pulled the game from the PS Store. Fortunately, the story doesn’t end on a sour note, as developers have worked hard to improve the game, and after several patches and updates, the game is one of the most enjoyable open-world titles on current-gen consoles.
1. No Man’s Sky
Like many other titles on the list, the developers made plenty of big promises before the game’s release. When No Man’s Sky launched, gamers realized that many of the promised features were missing, and the performance was poor. There was plenty of outrage, though Hello Games didn’t abandon No Man’s Sky. Instead, developers got to work releasing patches and updates that slowly but surely improved the game. Today, No Man’s Sky is a bestseller available on almost all platforms.
There’s no shortage of games with failed launches, and the future will feature plenty more. From these cases, we learn that although delays may be frustrating, terrible launches are far worse. We also see that even the worst launches don’t have to spell the end for a game so long as developers persevere.