Gaming is a business, and it’s a big business at that. Studios and publishers have more money than ever to develop, market, and deliver games to the public. But sometimes the pursuit of profit leads to low-quality releases and disappointed fans.
Here are the top five ways developers have botched their own games.
1. Delays, Delays, Delays
One of the biggest ways to botch a game is to make fans wait years to finally play it. Hype is great, but more than anything else, fans want to be able to actually play games.
Cyberpunk 2077 was initially announced in 2012 but didn’t actually hit store shelves until 2020. That’s eight long years of waiting. Cyberpunk was plagued by delay after delay, making many fans doubt if they would ever be able to play it.
When you delay a game for so long, only two things can happen. Either fans will lose interest in the product and focus on other upcoming games, or the hype will build to unrealistic levels. In Cyberpunk’s case, after almost a decade of waiting, the latter occurred and expectations were shattered.
Though Cyberpunk 2077’s launch was plagued with bugs and glitches (more on that later), even if the game ran perfectly, there was no way fans could have been satisfied.
2. Overpromise and Underdeliver
In this age of high-budget games, marketing departments have an almost-unlimited amount of money to convince fans that their game is going to be the next big thing. But many times, the final result doesn’t always match up with expectations.
The original Watch Dogs wowed fans when Ubisoft unveiled its first gameplay trailer during E3 2012, which featured graphics that were years ahead of its time. Ubisoft promised fans a next-generation game with dynamic weather, and incredible lighting effects, and it promised fans the ability to explore a living, breathing world.
Unfortunately, when players finally got their hands on the game, it had more than a few graphical and gameplay downgrades. Fans later found out that the announcement trailer that blew so many people away was actually being run on a high-end gaming PC, not a console.
When developers set unrealistic expectations for fans, it’s a recipe for disaster.
3. Style Over Substance
If you want to sell a game, it’s important to grab players’ attention. But when your art department runs wild while gameplay suffers, nobody wins in the end.
Final Fantasy XIII was positioned to be the greatest Final Fantasy game ever. It was the first entry in the series on the PS3/Xbox 360 generation of consoles, and it promised players revolutionary graphics and gameplay.
To Final Fantasy XIII’s credit, the final release did feature movie-like cutscenes and incredible graphics for the time, but its gameplay was more than a little lacking. While previous Final Fantasy games had large worlds for players to explore, Final Fantasy XIII was made up of mostly linear levels with only one path forward. Some fans even dubbed it a “hallway simulator.”
Even though Final Fantasy XIII went on to spawn two sequels and did have some loyal fans, most long-time Final Fantasy players rank it near the bottom of the series.
4. Release an Unfinished Product
When fans have waited years to get their hands on a release, they expect to be able to play a game that actually works. But it’s becoming more and more common for developers to release games that are full of bugs and glitches.
Let’s now return to Cyberpunk 2077, one of gaming’s worst offenders. When fans finally got their hands on the game, it was chock-full of broken missions, glitchy character models, and game-ending bugs. Worst of all, the performance was so bad on the standard PS4 and Xbox One consoles, that for many people, it was effectively unplayable. The situation got so out of hand that Sony even removed the game from the PS Store in 2020 and even offered fans a full refund.
Even when Cyberpunk came back to the PS Store more than six months later, CD Projekt Red had to release an embarrassing disclaimer on Twitter stating: “Users may continue to experience some performance issues with the PS4 edition while we continue to improve stability across all platforms. The PS4 Pro and PS5 versions of the game will provide the best experience on PlayStation.”
5. Abandon the Game After Launch
Before the internet, games had to be complete and totally finished when they arrived on disk. But that’s not the case anymore.
Games now have their own life cycles, and multiplayer-focused games often need support and updates for years after their initial launch. While most developers realize this and continue to push out new features, DLC, and add-ons long after their game’s launch, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.
When BioWare launched Anthem, fans expected to play a Destiny-meets-Iron-Man, open-world adventure. But one of the biggest reasons Destiny was such a successful franchise is that Bungie continued to release new missions and DLC years after it launched.
In the case of Anthem, just a few months after launch, the game was completely abandoned. After a less-than-stellar launch which didn’t meet sales targets, EA decided to ax support for the game and cancel all major updates, which meant no new content and missions. While EA’s decision may have saved the company some money in the short term, it also meant pushing away the fans that did want to stay and keep playing.
We Wanted to Love You, Botched Games
Any game, whether it’s a financial success or a commercial flop, is the product of many hours of work and creativity. So it’s a shame to see games that had the potential to be great end up becoming disasters because of poor decisions behind the scenes.
At the end of the day, games are meant to be fun, and delivering high-quality products and supporting fans after launch is one of the best ways to make sure your game is a success now and well into the future.