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A Short, Short History of Botched Video Game Launches - Destructoid

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In what is the coolest jobs I've ever had, I write about toys for a living. All day, nothing but toys. It's amazing. When I'm not writing at work I'm writing at home, either working on my screenplay or my children's novel. When I'm not doing any of that I try to get in some video game time. I'm currently rocking Nintendo only consoles because dammit, I love Nintendo. More than Nintendo, I love platform games. Even though my favorite game isn't a platformer (The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker), it is my favorite genre of games.

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Can you guess what game inspired this post? That’s right, the recent launch of Dead Space 3 has inspired me to reflect on this past generation to look at some of the poorest video game launches gamers have been subjected to.

Given video gaming’s 30+ years of existence, you’d think we’d eventually arrive at a point where every video game launch is a smooth experience for gamers. Unfortunately, as we learned with SimCity, it’s not the case. Sometimes the launch is bad for gamers, sometimes it’s bad for publishers and sometimes the bullet goes through both heads. Dead Space 3 was a poor launch for EA because of the unfair sales standards they set for the game. Add in the fact that it’s a co-op shooter instead of a horror game, something fans didn’t ask for, and you had the makings of a launch that may have killed the franchise (for now). That’s a recent example, but there are several more that have left an impact on gamers and gaming alike.

SimCity

It’s too early to say whether SimCity will be successful. Most people would argue that it’s an absolute failure and it certainly looks that way right now. But EA might be able to turn it around and have a product that you can actually play (crazy thought, I know). What can’t be argued is that SimCity’s launch has been an absolute disaster. Fans are revolting against the company, EA’s PR firm is smacking fans in the face with their dick and reviewers (at least one reviewer) is actively changing their scores of the game as this crisis goes into week two. Word has it EA has ceased its advertising campaign for the game until it gets fixed. Whenever that happens it remains to be seen if fans will forget about the debacle and embrace this game, which is reportedly great when its running at full steam.

Diablo III

It may not be the first game to require always online even during the single player campaign, but it certainly is the most prolific. Diablo III’s first week woes included the dreaded Error 3006 message that was a plague for players for the first couple of days after launch. Like SimCity, most critics agree that Diablo III is a great game trapped behind a regressive DRM model. Diablo III had the benefit of gamers not knowing how bad it could get with always on DRM, or at least not remembering. Activision/Blizzard sold more than 12 million copies of the title as a perfect way to beta test for the PS3/PS4 launch later this year. Many people learned their lesson and refused to allow history repeat itself for them with the launch of SimCity.

Final Fantasy XIV

Like basically every other major Final Fantasy title in the PS3/360 era, Final Fantasy XIV was in development for years. Though Final Fantasy XI didn’t sell as many copies as other games in the franchise, it was Square Enix’s most profitable title ever. So it was no wonder they would try and replicate that success with another Final Fantasy MMO title. Unfortunately, pedigree and ample development time couple save a game that was broken. Not “fundamentally” broken or “essentially” broken, the game was/is flat out broken. The game sold less than one million copies worldwide and was so reviled, Square-Enix issued an apology for the quality of the title and Yoichi Wada went on record saying he believes the game hurt the Final Fantasy brand. The game relaunches sometime this year as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, but there is no guarantee it will be successful. Especially with the well liked Dragon Quest X launching on the Wii U this year.

Ultima IX

SimCity isn’t EA’s first disastrous launch of an online title. More than a decade ago Ultima IX: Ascension was causing the blood of gamers to boil with its mess of a control system and ample game-crashing bugs. EA’s “fixes” only made the experience that much more worse. The game eventually had to be patched by the developers to make it barely playable. Ultima used to be one of the most beloved franchises in gaming. Now you rarely hear about it thanks to Ultima IX.

Half-Life 2

Every website that even barely mentions video gaming will at one point sing the praises of Valve. In 2004 it was a very different story. In hindsight the idea of launching a hotly anticipated shooter and a new digital distribution service at the same time is insane. But that’s what Valve attempted in November of 2004 when it tried to officially launch Steam and Half-Life 2 at the same time. They basically failed. Servers were overloaded by gamers playing the single-player mode (always on DRM), the online validation was busted and frequent crashes brought everything to a screeching halt. Thankfully, Half-Life 2 was a game worth waiting for, otherwise Valve might not had survived that first massive hiccup.

de Blob 2 & Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two

de Blob for the Wii was a minor hit on a system that needed its fair share of them. This new IP brought gamers to Chroma City where they were tasked with turning this monochrome dystopia into a colorful metropolis alive with art and music. Aside from a poor decision to map jumping to waggle and the occasional hour and a half long levels, de Blob succeeded at reaching the Wii audience and reportedly selling around 700,000 copies.
Epic Mickey was a hotly anticipated title for the Nintendo Wii that had been teased about for what seemed like years. Promotional art for the title inspired the imaginations of gamers everywhere and more than 1.3 million people paid out $50 to play this game when it launched. Though it wasn’t the greatness most were hoping for, the game did have a solid foundation on which to establish a great franchise.
de Blob 2 & Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two bombed at retailers. de Blob 2, despite being a better game than de Blob, failed to sell even as many copies on multiple consoles as the first game did on one. Epic Mickey 2 was, by all accounts, an atrocious game that sullied the already dusty name of Epic Mickey. Playable on the Nintendo Wii, broken on the Wii U and middling on the PS3/360, Epic Mickey 2 also failed to reach the retail highs the first game did, even with the help of the 3DS spin-off. Both de Blob and Epic Mickey have, for now, been put on ice right next to Walt Disney’s head.

Heroes of Ruin

Proof positive that you shouldn’t release a demo if your demo is terrible (see Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed 3DS and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate), Heroes of Ruin ruined any good will towards the game when it released an absolutely boring and dull demo before its launch. The idea of playing a dungeon crawler on the 3DS was enticing to many gamers up until that point. After that demo was out, the game released to abysmal sales. In October of 2012, n-Space said it was disappointed by the sales for the game, mirroring the sentiment carried by anyone who purchased that game... or Roller Coaster Tycoon 3D.

Hellgate London

I never played Hellgate London, but I had a friend who played it. Or at least tried to play it. Aside from being booted off every 45 minutes or so, I watched as he played a game that continually looked like it was near post-alpha form. The game was buggier than the underside of a wet log with ugly texture pop-in and broken missions. Not everyone can develop a successful MMO. Hellgate London proved that not everyone should try.

Fire Emblem: Awakening

Maybe it was the unanticipated demand or problems with production, but Fire Emblem: Awakening's launch had an issue Nintendo is all too familiar with: supply problems. Not even close to enough retail copies were available for launch. The game had an unintentional staggered launch as many stores across the country failed to get the game on release day. At my local Gamestop, only five of the 13 pre-orders were filled on the first day while everyone else had to either wait or download it. I did get my copy that first day, but if there is any issue that shouldn’t be an issue in 2013 it’s a supply issue. Then again, it all could have been a great plan to push people to the eShop... but I doubt it.

The War Z

No matter how bad you think SimCity’s launch has been, nothing can compare to the disaster that was and is The War Z. Not only did Hammerpoint Interactive sell a broken game, but the developer eagerly lied to its customers about the features in the game. Players versus environment? Nope. Hundred player servers? Ha! Add in the fact the game was “Fee-to-Pay” and gamers took their frustrations to the Steam forums. Like any good gaming mogul in training, Sergey Titov said that a majority of gamers were enjoying the game without issues. Which totally must be true because the game was pulled from Steam, who as we all know frequently pulls games because people love them too much.
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