When ambitious games are announced, they often attract lots of hype.
This places tremendous pressure upon the developers to ensure the game turns out well.
However, in recent years, several high-profile titles have failed to live up to the hype and have had disastrous launches.
While it’s enjoyable to point and laugh, it’s also important to regard these games as a lesson in managing expectations.
So, to begin this list, let’s start with one of the most infamous failed launches in history.
No Man’s Sky – 2016
You can’t talk about bad launches and player discontent without mentioning No Man’s Sky.
Advertised as a vast space exploration game with numerous exciting features, No Man’s Sky was among the most hyped games of 2016.
Unfortunately, on release, the gaming world got a nasty shock as it discovered that far from the promises, No Man’s Sky was an empty shell of the game that offered only a few partial representations of the expected features.
This shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise, though, as the developers of No Man’s Sky were much closer to an Indie studio than a AAA one in terms of resources and their claims should have been handled with more suspicion.
To their credit, though, No Man’s Sky was not neglected by these developers, and over the last six years, it has improved drastically and become far closer to what was promised – earning a lot of respect back from the angered community.
Fallout 76 – 2018
Bethesda promised that Fallout 76 would be bigger and better than its predecessor, but it was sorely lacking at launch.
It is difficult to sum up all the ways Fallout 76 disappointed fans, but a few of these include fake pre-order canvas bags, the massive number of bugs, extensive in-game exploits, and the in-game item shop offering useless items at exorbitant prices.
To add insult to injury, the site that Bethesda made for players to sign up to receive a real canvas bag, in the way of reparations, accidentally exposed all the private information it had accumulated and had to be shut down.
Fallout 76 is in a better condition these days, as Bethesda did continue to support the title, but its poor initial release seriously damaged the company’s reputation.
Anthem – 2019
Bioware was once the golden child when it came to RPGs – however, after the release of Anthem, their reputation and standing took a big hit.
Like the previous titles, Anthem was a game that promised the world but offered up a small park – its content was lacking, its gameplay was serviceable but repetitive, and the game was, as a whole, a half-baked mess.
It’s quite possible the requirements for the game imposed by EA could have interfered with development, and notably, after the Anthem debacle, many veteran Bioware developers left the company.
It will be interesting to see if Bioware can restore its tarnished image with the eventual release of Dragon Age Dreadwolf.
Warcraft 3: Reforged – 2020
Warcraft 3: Reforged isn’t just one of the worst launches in recent years – it could be considered one of the worst ever.
Not only did the supposed remake incorrectly promise a slue of new content for the old game, such as new cutscenes, but Blizard also kept its pre-orders open until release knowing full well that the game was going to be released was nowhere near what it had promised.
Not only that, but once released, the new version completely erased the built-up community content of the old game.
Warcraft 3: Reforged has likewise been all but abandoned, and as it stands, Blizzard has turned its attentions elsewhere.
Cyberpunk 2077 – 2020
After the success of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, many were expecting Cyberpunk 2077 from CD Projekt RED to be a resounding success – and potentially the game of the decade.
However, the title that was released was buggy, lacked features, and suffered from poor optimisation on consoles.
Ironically, Cyberpunk 2077 was a failure primarily due to the unrealistic expectations placed upon it, as much of the content it did offer was actually quite good.
Had it been released quietly to moderate fanfare, it’s possible the backlash would have been mild.
Regardless of what could have happened, its release ruined the goodwill CD Projekt RED had built up and has cast severe concerns over the company’s future projects.
Battlefield 2042 – 2021
Battlefield 2042, while not as globally known for its failures as some previous entries, deserves to be on this list thanks to its marketing – more specifically, the comments from one of its developers.
The game did release with missing features, bugs and so on that certainly ensured expectations weren’t met, but the true pinnacle of its failure was how it handled player backlash.
During the lead-up to its release, EA had released trailers and footage of the game that showed women in a World War 2 combat setting, and many fans of the series were not pleased.
Whether you take issue with female soldiers or not, that’s beside the point – the actual problem arose when an EA creative officer said in an interview: “either accept it or don’t buy the game”, while calling disgruntled fans uneducated and treating the whole matter with righteous disdain.
Fans took him up on the suggestion as Battlefield 2042’s sales were dismal. Not only that, but the title also received an unprecedented demand for mass refunds, and its player count dwindled quickly after release.
Diablo Immortal – 2022
The final game on this list is the most recent, and if regarded purely in terms of money made, Diablo Immortal is certainly not a failure.
However, in terms of public reception, it was a car crash.
Thanks to the game’s aggressive monetisation, and ambiguous and disingenuous marketing, Diablo Immortal now holds the lowest ever user review score on Metacritic at 0.4 out of 10.
Being a mobile game and given both the poor response from fans at its reveal (is this an out-of-season April fools joke?) and the developer’s response (Don’t you guys have phones?), its quality at release should come as no surprise.
This, funnily enough, is the second game from Blizzard to make this list and casts a rather poor outlook on the company’s future projects, especially when one considers its recent internal issues, falling player counts in WoW, and general apathy from long-time fans.