The worst launches in PC gaming history

A lot can go wrong on launch day. MMO developers can misjudge the number of people who want to connect and find their servers swamped. Online authentication can cause traffic jams as scores of players all activate their games at the same time. Bugs and glitches, either missed or downplayed during testing, can cause massive, unforeseen problems.

Games can be released before they’re completely ready, customer service departments may be vastly outnumbered by players needing help, and sometimes developers release shoddy games with broken or missing features.

Every single one of us has been excited to play a new game and has had that excitement deflated while suffering through a disappointing and frustrating launch. While some games eventually recover and go on to become well-regarded hits, others never pull out of their day-one nosedive.

Here are the all-time worst game launches in PC gaming history.


Batman: Arkham Knight

The children’s rhyme becomes prophecy: jingle bells, Batman smells, indeed. Warner Brothers released the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight with more problems than the Riddler has trophies. It was terribly optimized with performance and texture issues, a cap of 30 FPS, and a ridiculously stripped-down options menu. “Normal” and “low” texture settings only? That’s too cruel a joke even for Batman’s arch-nemesis.

So severe were the game’s issues on PC, and so incensed were the customers who purchased it, that WB actually stopped selling the game altogether, yanking it from the Steam store and other online retailers. Months later it reappeared after being patched—though it was still replete with many of the same problems. More patches followed, and Arkham Knight slowly but surely got whipped into fighting shape.


Dead Island

Developers no doubt have a lot on their minds on launch day, and that’s never been more evident than when Dead Island was released. Specifically, Techland released the wrong version of Dead Island. Rather than the finished game, a dev build went public: a buggy and unoptimized port with access to scores of cheats that allowed players to walk through walls and become invulnerable.

On top of that, Techland was forced to fix several dozens other issues on day one, including problems with quests, saved games, and graphical glitches.



In addition to common MMO launch problems, like lengthy queues to join servers, ArcheAge players quickly discovered another issue. With a fixed number of servers, and a fixed amount of claimable land on each server, all the land had been claimed within hours of the game’s launch. The only way for players to acquire land was to buy it from another player, or claim it when a land-holder neglected to pay taxes on it.

This second method turned out to be nearly impossible. The game was released in a highly vulnerable state, allowing hackers to exploit it nearly to death with bots and third-party programs. Automated software allowed cheaters to claim land as soon as a parcel became available, teleporting to it and snatching it up before anyone else could legitimately claim it. Trion responded, eventually, with waves of bans, but for some frustrated players the damage had already been done.


Anarchy Online

Sometimes everything that can go wrong does go wrong, and Exhibit A is 2001’s Anarchy Online. When it launched, some players found that the product keys shipped with their discs were invalid, while others were billed twice for the same registration fee. Crashes were common, servers were often down, and once they were actually in the game, players found there were areas of the world they couldn’t even access. Naturally, Funcom’s customer service staff were overwhelmed.

Sometimes, however, the worst beginning can still have a happy ending. Funcom spent months fixing Anarchy’s problems and offered free trials in an effort to win back fans. The sci-fi MMO is still chugging along today, free to play.



Longtime fans of the Maxis city management series were unhappy with the revelation that you couldn’t play 2013’s SimCity offline, even if you were playing it alone. This was especially irksome considering the game’s multiplayer mode didn’t actually involve playing with other people directly.

Of course, this was rendered moot on launch day because the game simply wasn’t playable. It didn’t work the day after launch day, either, or even well into its first week. Only after EA disabled a number of features were people actually able to regularly connect and play, at which point they got more bad news: city size was strictly limited and the citizen AI wasn’t nearly as complex as promised.

The hits continued: after claiming an offline mode was impossible, EA sheepishly added it a few months later. None of these disasters prevented the game from selling over two million copies, however.


No Man’s Sky

It would have been impossible for No Man’s Sky to live up to its pre-launch hype, but even going into it with lowered expectations, many fans were disappointed with the space exploration game’s serious launch issues. FPS drops, stuttering, screen-tearing, crashing on startup or when using the galaxy map (meaning players were stuck in a single solar system), the and inability to alt-tab in and out of the game without restarting were among the game’s early problems, even after a two-month delay and a big Day 1 patch.

Perhaps most disappointing was that two players on the PS4 version tried to meet and nothing apparent happened, which ran counter to what we’d been told before the game launched and which still hasn’t been satisfactorily explained by the developers. The outcry from the community led to months of complete silence from Hello Games, though eventually more patches arrived and several feature-heavy hefty updates were added.


The War Z

What was wrong with The War Z? Plenty. Whose fault was it? Yours, apparently.

The War Z’s Steam page contained descriptive words like “private servers” and “player skills” and “400km maps,” and according to the developer, players were foolish to buy the game based on those descriptions and even more foolish for complaining about them. Scores of players were banned, some without cause or explanation, complaints were deleted from the game’s forums, and eventually The War Z was yanked from Steam for false advertising.

The War Z, like a particularly persistent coffin dodger, won’t stay dead. It popped back up in 2013 with a new name but many of the same old problems.


Vanguard: Saga of Heroes

It’s one thing for servers to be unprepared for a game’s launch and quite another for the game itself to be unprepared. Vanguard, when all was said and done, simply wasn’t ready to be played. After acquiring the title, which had struggled through development for years prior to launch, Sony Online Entertainment shoved it out the door before it was fully dressed.

Eager players found themselves wrestling with a huge amount of bugs, including quest-related glitches that required them to abandon characters entirely and create new ones. It was also terribly optimized, heavily taxing players’ PCs while providing terrible frame rates. Developers would spend years trying to fix the game, and in July of 2014, Sony shut it down altogether.


World of Warcraft

In 2004, with 500 employees and 40 servers, Blizzard prepared for a nice, smooth launch of their fantasy MMO World of Warcraft. Slight problem: they somehow completely misjudged the teeming hordes of excited gamers dying to play. The servers couldn’t even come close to handling them.

Players were forced to join queues of thousands of people waiting to get in, and once online were often dumped out and forced to the rear of another lengthy queue. Even doubling the amount of servers didn’t do much to help, and the situation grew so dire Blizzard had to stop shipping boxed copies to stores for fear of more people buying them and further swamping the servers.

Overwhelming popularity is clearly, as they say, one of those “good problems,” and since its launch WoW has gone on to gross over two hundred dollars. (Plus 10 billion more.) They’re still not immune to launch day woes, however: the Warlords of Draenor expansion, released in 2014, treated players to long access queues and server timeouts.


Assassin’s Creed: Unity

The reports came in quickly. NPCs were missing their faces. Frame rates were terrible. Collision issues meant players were falling through the ground. Co-op play was broken. These were mostly reports from players, mind you, because review embargoes were in place for twelve hours after the game’s bug-laden launch. Ubisoft seemed perfectly aware that they’d given birth to a turkey.

The launch was such a disaster Ubisoft eventually cancelled their season pass and offered a free game on Uplay to anyone who’d purchased Unity’s DLC. While that seems nice, the fine print in the agreement stated that accepting the freebie meant you can’t ever sue Ubisoft over Unity. Now who’s got the dagger up their sleeve?

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This article and images was originally posted on [PC Gamer] May 2, 2017 at 03:42AM

By  staff





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