1. Anarchy Online
I'm putting this at the top of the list because I knew if I didn't, you'd ignore whatever was here and scroll down to look for Funcom's
Let's put it this way: Anything that could have gone wrong -- up to demonic possession and the apocalypse -- went wrong when Anarchy Online
went live in 2001. Billing and account registration was a nightmare, the game was inaccessible to many, lag and latency was through the roof, and the MMO as a whole was pretty much unplayable. Yours truly was on the scene during that time, and I have to say that the slideshow that was Rubi-Ka did not impress me enough to stay. Years later, I wrote an article summing up the timeline of this launch
, if you're so interested in revisiting the nightmare.
It's perhaps most damning that even now, in 2012, we still refer to AO's
launch if we want to epitomize the worst way to roll a product out the door.
2. World of Warcraft
Time -- and raging worldwide success -- has a funny way of erasing the blemishes of one of the worst launches in the industry. Like many other titles on this list, the studio responsible simply underestimated the player demand for its product. In this case, the studio was Blizzard
and the product was World of Warcraft
Blizzard may have claimed ignorance, but the insane amount of interest in WoW's
beta should've given the team a heads-up that a tsunami was incoming. Whether they should've seen it coming or not, WoW
launched with far fewer servers than was needed, and huge chunks of subscribers could not log in or else faced lengthy queues. What's worse is that the problem persisted for weeks and months, resulting in a mea culpa by Blizzard's president and free game time given out to antsy players.
This isn't even to mention the game's several bugs, including the infamous "stuck in looting position" glitch that left characters crouched on the ground for several minutes at a time.
saga of launch is split between two sorry tales. The first is the story of its development process, which went from the heights of hubris and capital-V Vision to the depths of layoffs and financial woes. Passed along from publisher to publisher, Vanguard
quickly became known as an industry albatross. With most of its developers fired in a parking lot one Monday afternoon, Vanguard
lacked a core team to help bring it home -- and oh it showed.
shoved the game out of the door without mercy before it was finished, and Vanguard's launch went down in history as an abomination unto mankind. Missing features, legions of bugs, and insanely high computer hardware demands repelled players away by the thousands. It also didn't help matters that the title was sandwiched between World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade's
launch and Lord of the Rings Online's
4. All Points Bulletin
All Points Bulletin
put out a hit on its own maker when it went to launch. You probably don't want to hear "buggy" again on this list, but the thesaurus isn't helping me out and buggy this was. Even worse, APB
suffered from nasty exploits that cut the legs out from under this PvP title and drove away potential new fans.
In short, it was so bad that within weeks, Realtime Worlds
went belly-up for real. Strangely enough, the title itself was saved by GamersFirst
, which swooped in and saved it from eternal death.
5. Final Fantasy XIV
You know it's bad when a studio doesn't want to take your money for a subscription game after the first month. But such was the odd case of Square-Enix
and Final Fantasy XIV
. Unlike some of the other bad MMO launches, FFXIV
didn't show problems of excessive queues, billing issues (apart from a bizarre method of payment), or crashes. Instead, the game was quickly pronounced DOA by players and critics who were stunned by the lack of content, the copy-and-paste world, and the obtuse method of interacting with the game.
Facing the imminent collapse of a major entry in its tentpole franchise, Square-Enix replaced several members of the dev team and announced that it would not be charging subscriptions until the game was fixed. Well over a year later, the studio felt confident enough in its shored-up product to charge for it, although players are still waiting for FFXIV's
version 2.0 release as a second attempt to do this right.
6. Star Wars Galaxies
While The Old Republic
haters were on hand to point out any failing of SWTOR's
release, the truth is that BioWare
fared far, far better than what happened to SOE's own Star Wars MMO in 2003. Star Wars Galaxies
was the hot ticket of the year, and players jammed the tubes trying to get in on day one. Unfortunately, the game was riddled with bugs, the servers were often unresponsive, and many players simply could not log in due to an overwhelmed account center. Add on top of that the absence of the promised space combat aspect of the game and a major release date delay, and patience was tested on the highest levels of geekdom.
7. Age of Conan
Plenty of people were watching Age of Conan
closely in the early days of 2008, wary of another "Failcom" launch. While the game got great initial press and hype, few realized that the studio had simply front-loaded the quality content to make a good impression. Shortly after launch, players who surpassed level 20 found themselves in a completely different game bereft of things to do and experience.
Blue screens of death were reported and PvP was a complete joke. "Incomplete" was one of the nicer labels thrown at the game in following its birth, and it was a while before life got better in Hyboria.
8. World War II Online
Most people forget about World War II Online
(now Battleground Europe
) when compiling "worst MMO launch" lists, probably because it is such a forgettable title. But I'd be remiss not to include it, because just about nothing of this game worked the way it should've when it opened its doors in 2001.
Players found themselves struggling with a bug-infested snoozefest of a war, as they crossed endless landscapes looking for even a single other player to fight. It got so bad that the developer made the game free-to-play for several months while hotfixing the title, but to good end; Playnet
ultimately had to file for bankruptcy to stay afloat.
9. Allods Online
Here's probably one of the strangest titles on this list, if for nothing else than people were absolutely bananas
about Allods Online
in beta. It played smoothly, it had a World of Warcraft
aesthetic that people liked, and it tickled people's fun centers. All that changed the moment it went into open beta (which for the purposes of this list was essentially the launch of the game) and gPotato
revealed the horrendous cash shop
. Players were being charged through the nose for basic items like bag space, and the game would levy an intense death penalty on you that could only be erased with real money or a very long wait.
It was amazing how quickly public sentiment turned against Allods
, tarnishing the game's reputation for good. Allods
became a cautionary tale of how a bad business model could taint an otherwise great game.
While life in Aion
Town is chugging along quite nicely from what I hear, its launch day was a chaotic mess that rivaled the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Thousands of people attempted to go through the door at the same moment, and servers quickly went from "full" to "post-Thanksgiving dinner stuffed" to "please stop, guys, you're crushing our server guys to death!"
Queues of hours and hours were standard as it became obvious that NCsoft
was unprepared to meet the demand placed on its infrastructure. The issue became so prominent that the Massively team rushed to get a queue survival guide
out to the masses.
Justin "Syp" Olivetti enjoys counting up to ten, a feat that he considers the apex of his career. If you'd like to learn how to count as well, check out The Perfect Ten. You can contact him via email at email@example.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.