Over the course of our PC gaming careers, we’ve looked forward to countless games with great expectations only to have them dashed on more occasions than we’d care to mention. In recent years, we’ve upgraded our custom gaming PCsin preparation for the launch of many graphically demanding games, and spent hundreds of pounds on pre-ordering the next great hope(s) in PC gaming. While the gameplay itself is often the source of our eventual disappoint when these titles do finally launch, it’s often other launch issues that most frustrate us. As more and more games have implemented online gameplay and multiplayer modes, launch issues have only become more prevalent. We take a look through the history books and take you back to the launches that caused us the most pain and anguish.
Half-Life 2 (2004)
One of the most cherished PC games of all time also suffered from perhaps the rockiest launch. To play Half-Life 2, you needed to authenticate it through Steam. Back then, Steam was a brand new service towards which players were almost universally hostile. It was an unwieldy, awkward form of DRM, surely something that could never last. The anticipation for Half-Life 2 was huge, and Steam’s authentication servers were soon overwhelmed by the sheer number of players wanting to play their new purchase. Thousands of users complained about having to register the game through Steam. Valve added additional server capacity in a matter of days, resolving the issues relatively swiftly. As we all know, Half-Life 2 was an incredible success – but we’ll never forget the awful launch.
Diablo III (2012)
Diablo III was one of the most hyped-up games in history. Its predecessor, Diablo II, has taken on legendary status amongst PC gamers – and with good reason. With twelve years between II and III, it’s clear that gamers had been waiting a long time to get their hands on this title. Pre-order numbers were high, and Diablo fans didn’t want to wait a minute longer to get back into Sanctuary. However, Diablo III required a constant connection to Blizzard’s servers in order to play, even for the single player experience. Unsurprisingly, the servers buckled under the load, and players everywhere were presented with Error 37 messages instead of being able to get playing. Those who were lucky enough to get into the game suffered from severe lag and rubber banding, causing the permanent deaths of hardcore characters.
Gamers awaited SimCity with bated breath. On the one hand, the SimCity series is one of the most beloved franchises of all time, with many a childhood spent planning and building the ultimate digital city. However, given EA’s reputation with PC gamers in recent years, many gamers were expecting the worst. SimCity’s hopeless launch ticks pretty much all the boxes when it comes to disastrous launches. Here’s a quick summary. As a near-constant connection to the SimCity servers is required to play, there was no offline mode for gamers to enjoy while the server issues were resolved. Instead, the servers continued to be hammered by players eager to get access to the new SimCity game. Those who did gain access were frequently kicked out of the game with no warning – and their cities, which were saved on EA’s servers, disappeared too. EA was slow to respond, with the server issues lasting at least a week. What’s more, they were only resolved once key features of the game were disabled. Developers Maxis once again reiterated that an offline mode was impossible as so much of the processing was offloaded onto EA’s servers, but this was proven to be false. In addition, EA was extremely reluctant to give refunds to dissatisfied players. The company did, however, overhaul its entire refund policy and offer free games to SimCity players – but it took a while. Once the issues subsided, it soon became clear that there were fatal flaws in SimCity’s core gameplay mechanics, too…
These are only three terrible launches, but pretty much every MMO ever made would also fit quite happily on this list. Honourable mentions go out to World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV and Star Wars Galaxies. It seems that developers and publishers rarely learn their lesson when it comes to launch days. Still, once you finally get in-game, you’ll want to enjoy it on some top-notch hardware – such as a recently upgraded custom PC.