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The Perfect Ten: Worst MMO launches of all time


First things first: Whatever MMO release is currently ticking you off is the worst launch of all time. It would be folly of me to try to convince you otherwise. You've been roundly slapped in the face and you don't want me to convince you that the pain was in vain. I understand.

Getting past that, however, would it be possible to examine the subsequent 10 worst launches in the MMO industry? If your trauma isn't too great, that is. It would be? Terrific!

What constitutes a horrible game launch is varied, although each and every one of the following games made an unfortunate blunder that caused the title to stumble instead of sprint out of the gate. It's not the end of the story, of course, but it does make for a good tale to tell to youngsters camping in the open woods or a particularly seedy LAN center.

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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 maiden MMO.

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.

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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.

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3. Vanguard

Vanguard's 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 release.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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10. Aion

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 or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.

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