Few things in life are more exciting than the release date of a game you’ve been looking forward to. Months–and, in some cases, years–of poring through rumors, watching and rewatching announcement trailers, and gently caressing your preorder receipt every night before you go to bed are supposed to be rewarded with a glorious gaming experience that trumps all others. Sadly, that’s not always the case. Sometimes things are broken; sometimes promises are made that, in hindsight, couldn’t possibly be fulfilled. The following are the five worst launch days in gaming. We swear we aren’t trying to rub it in.
Half-Life 2 (2004) – Sure, everyone looks back fondly on Gordon Freeman’s second adventure now, but the day Valve released it to the PC gaming public was not a happy time. The venerable Steam distribution platform, you see, was brand new, and the PC version of Half-Life 2 depended on its online validation mechanism–which broke horribly under the load of rabid gamers eager for some hot physicist-on-headcrab action. It’s a wonder more gamers didn’t take a crowbar to their rigs in frustration.
Ultima IX: Ascension (1999) - An oldie but a goodie, this seemingly ancient history proves EA has been flubbing launch days since the era when “always on” meant you left a game running just to see what it would do. Bugs in the 3D engine lead to repetitive crashes that rendered the game nigh unplayable. An unofficial patch released by one of the game’s developers finally made it kind of work after EA’s official updates failed miserably. The poor Ultima series, once a staple of the PC world, hasn’t been the same since.
Hellgate: London (2007) - Crash bugs. Lost progress. Double and triple billings. Talk about opening up the gates of hell and unleashing all manner of vile demons–and this came from a team that partially consisted of former Blizzard employees who really should’ve been able to divert this sort of clusterfuck. Developer Flagship Studios filed for bankruptcy in 2008. The game has resurfaced in Korea using a free-to-play model.
Diablo III (2012) - Stay awhile and listen to this famous tale of overloaded servers and poorly tested patches. Building a new Diablo game should be a no-brainer, right? Just build a dark, slightly gross-looking game where you click shit, that shit dies, and then you get to pick up that shit’s shit. Simple, right? Sure, until you require a persistent server connection regardless of whether people want to play with friends but fail to build the infrastructure to handle the launch day rush.
SimCity (2013) – The inspiration for this list just lived through the worst launch day ever. After waiting over ten years for a proper sequel to SimCity 4, virtual urban planners were greeted with a rash of server problems that kept many from getting past the initial loading screen and force others to replay the tutorial ad nauseum. This game, you see, is the wave of the future, an ostensibly single-player experience that relies on cloud technology for processing and copy protection. Guess what? It turns out that the future sucks. Rather than a loving family and a father with a great job, SimCity owners got a filthy casino and the usually cute-as-a-button Lea Thompson looking a bit busted and used up. Is it too late to take the sports almanac back from EA? Only time will tell, but we know one thing for sure: SimCity just had the worst launch day ever.
And the moral of this story is: servers suck. If you see one, punch it in the face.