2011 Gaming Industry Review: The Year of Botched Launches
“The Year of the Threequal”, “The Biggest Lineup Ever”, however you choose to remember 2011, there is one thing that shouldn't be ignored: the abundance of botched launches of multiple AAA releases.
2011 could've easily been remembered as the greatest year in gaming, seeing the release of several blockbuster titles like Battlefield 3, Uncharted 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Gears of War 3, and many more AAA titles. Instead, thanks to several mishaps during the launch of big-named titles, 2011 is likely to be remember as “The Year of Botched Launches”.
See this? That's your Pre-Order incentive just flying away
I'll admit, I was probably the quickest to praise EA's handling of Battlefield 3's launch, even going so far as to say other games should take note on how to properly release a game. Shortly after that, EA's servers for the Xbox 360 proceeded to fail, resulting in the game being unplayable online.
Of course, that wasn't the real blunder. Server issues are to be expected when a game launches. What was unexpected – at least to many PS3 owners – was EA leaving the free copy of Battlefield 1943, which was promised as a PS3 pre-order incentive, out of the actual shipping of the game. EA made up for it, however, by making all future BF3 expansions available early to PS3 customers. Good deal, right? Wrong. A group of gamers have banded together to file a class action lawsuit against EA.
Batman: Arkham City
EA isn't the only company who failed to deliver on a promise. When Batman: Arkham City launched, Warner Bros. and Rocksteady failed to notice one little thing missing from the game: the Catwoman DLC voucher. Reports of missing/blank vouchers for the Catwoman DLC – which was an integral part of the single-player campaign – practically ruined the entire experience for many users.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
"We'll be taking these shiny new OnLive codes, thank you very much"
Not every mishap at launch is a result of the publishers/developer leaving things out. Sometimes it's the retailer's fault. That's the case with the Deus Ex: Human Revolution blunder, which saw GameStop ordering it's employees to open copies of the game and remove a voucher to download the game to OnLive for free. GameStop may have attempted to justify their actions, but it's just further proof of an industry being ruined by greed.
I don't think any other game this year had as rocky of a launch as Dead Island. What many consider to be the roughest launch in gaming history, fans of Dead Island saw the accidental release of the Xbox 360 developer build on Steam, a PS3 trophy bug, and a line of code that could offend women everywhere.
Not quite like this...but you get the idea
RAGE was hailed as one of the most graphically impressive games of this year. Unfortunately, many PC gamers didn't get to experience the game in all it's hi-def glory at first. Thanks to a nasty Nvidia and AMD graphics driver issue, PC users had to put up with ugly screen-tearing, nasty bugs, and horrid texture loading. The result? A game that promised great graphics but failed to deliver a PC gaming experience up to par with consoles.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Aside from some expected lag issues and general fan disappointment, the game itself had a pretty smooth launch. When looking at the extras, however, you begin to see the problems. Activision's new “Call of Duty ELITE” feature has not worked properly since the launch of the game, thanks to a “greater than expected” number of registrants that caused the servers to crash. To this date, ELITE is still not functioning properly, and PC gamers are left wondering if they will ever see the arrival of the new program. As of right now, it doesn't look likely.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim, for the most part, has been enjoyable for the majority of fans. That is, unless you ask PS3 users. PS3 users have been plagued by a lag issue presumably caused by the game's unusually large save files. But PS3 users aren't alone in their problems. Many Xbox 360 users have reported problems with the game scaling textures and not performing properly when installed on the system's hard drive. While these are definitely annoyances, the game has still received rave reviews – and yes, these are said to be fixed in the upcoming 1.2 patch.
Saints Row: The Third
This game didn't necessarily have a launch debacle, but THQ did have a pretty big blunder. Saints Row: The Third was promised to have PlayStation Move functionality, allowing players to use the Move to control the infamous giant purple dildo. Unfortunately, the feature never made it into the game, but THQ made up for it by offering everyone a free copy of Saints Row 2. It was in no way game-breaking, but it's just another example of how developers/publishers promised something to gamers and didn't deliver.
The majority of these games were released in the latter part of 2011, so I'm sure I've missed a few launch debacles from earlier in the year.
So what are we seeing here? Obviously fans are willing to put up with these launch shenanigans; otherwise, we wouldn't see people continue to dish out obscene amounts of money. This November saw the release of multiple blockbuster titles, which added up to an absurd cost for gamers. The majority of these bugs, though potentially game-breaking at first, were/are usually fixed within the first patch.
I think what we are seeing, and this is a scary trend, is the pressure put on developers to release the game as quickly as possible. These days, it's expensive to create games, so I believe publishers are rushing games out as quickly as possible. Many times these games are unpolished, but thanks to updates and patches, developers are able to continue working on the game post-release.
To me, this year could've been something great. Yes, we saw some great games, but we also saw these games suffer some serious setbacks at launch thanks to rushed launches. 2011 could've, and should've, been known as the greatest year in gaming history, but now when I think back on it, I think about how much gamers were scammed and how much developers/publishers left on the table.
Here's to a smoother, more polished 2012.