Unfortunately, video game launch failures are nothing unusual now. There are many reasons why they happen, but it's mostly connected to the strict release schedule. Even though some developers work for more than 100 hours weekly, that's often not enough to release a game that delivers what was promised. Of course, we can understand when new software has a few bugs or even needs a couple of days to sort its online servers. However, it's a different story when it's an unoptimized, buggy mess lacking many features. While there are hundreds of these titles, only some of them performed a miracle and recovered. Now we are ranking the top ten games based on their overall quality and the improvements made.
10. Cyberpunk 2077
Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the worst recent tech disasters, even though being delayed several times. When it propelled on September 17, 2020, you knew that something was very wrong. Despite a massive day one patch, the title still had hundreds of bugs, with some of them seriously impacting gameplay. However, saving was the worst offender, as the file could have been easily corrupt! Unfortunately, there were many other issues, but the performance got everyone talking. While the PC version is playable on decent gaming hardware, the console edition was a whole different story.
The basic PS4 and Xbox One versions suffered from frame rates that barely hit 20, and even Xbox One X and PS4 Pro weren't great. Since then, the company is hard at work, as they've released tons of patches to improve performance and stability. This makes it tolerable on PC and PS4 Pro, but the other versions are still a hard sell. Cyberpunk 2077 barely qualifies for this list, but we'll update its position as the development continues.
9. Halo: The Master Chief Collection
We love the idea of having all Xbox/Xbox 360 Halo games in one package, especially with the improvements made. The developers did a fantastic job, especially when updating the first two Halos, and the single-player was perfectly fine. However, the multiplayer component was beyond broken, to the point that it couldn't get any worse.
While the collection had a massive 20 GB day one update, that didn't help with online performance. As the servers were incapable of handling millions of players, you would wait for hours to play a single match! Luckily, 343 Industries solved the issues eventually, after more than a couple of patches. Moreover, all problems were gone, and the players also got additional content for free. No wonder this is one of the best games for the Xbox Series consoles.
8. Gran Turismo Sport
PlayStation 4 got a single Gran Turismo game, and despite delays, it had a rough start. While not a buggy mess, it shockingly lacked content. Although we had 1200 cars in Gran Turismo 6, there were fewer than 200 in Sport! Also, we had only six real-life racing tracks, with 19 in total. Additionally, Polyphony Digital threw out a traditional campaign, so you could only do license tests and single races in single-player. The multiplayer was also very poor, providing a few racing opportunities.
Nevertheless, the developers put their foot to the floor, releasing tons of free content every month for more than a couple of years. By now, we have got loads of new cars and courses and even a single-player career. Multiplayer got better with the official FIA championships, transforming a game into an e-sport. Polyphony added so much other stuff, including hundreds of backgrounds to the brilliant Photo Mode, and implemented rain effects.
7. Diablo III (PC version)
Blizzard is no stranger to problematic launches, but the Diablo III fiasco is the first thing that comes to everyone's mind. While the game sold 3.5 million copies on the launch date, the company wasn't prepared for it. You see, Diablo III requires you to be online, even if you're playing in a single-player mode. This meant that everyone had to join the servers, which were incapable of handling the situation.
Many players got stuck on the loading screens, but they were still luckier than those facing crashes. In the worst case, you couldn't even log into your account! Blizzard took down servers many times to fix the issues before eventually figuring things out. Oh, and we shouldn't forget the auction house, which basically promoted the pay-to-win concept. After considerable pressure, the company decided to phase it out, making everyone happy.
The DriveClub is still one of the best PlayStation 4 exclusives, but its early days were horrific. Even though it was supposed to release during the console's launch window, it came almost a year late! Despite delays, the multiplayer component wasn't ready, so it was useless for the first couple of weeks. Unfortunately, the single-player wasn't doing much better. The trouble was with the content since the number of cars and tracks was seriously lacking.
Fortunately, the developers kept their heads low, and in a couple of months, all the online performance issues were gone. With loads of very affordable DLCs, the number of cars doubled, while we also got free tracks and vehicles. Eventually, we received a patch that added weather conditions, which still looks stunning. Even though the servers shut down in 2020, you still need to have this unique racer. Unfortunately, as the game is delisted, you can't buy DLCs anymore. Well, that's the era of digital gaming for you!
5. No Man's Sky
No Man's Sky looked like a dream to anyone wanting to explore space. The procedurally generated content meant 18 quintillion planets to visit, and that's a scary number! However, players soon discovered that the game feels so empty, without much to do. Also, the planets all looked similar, while the online component wasn't ready. This lead to some pretty extreme stuff, including death threats sent to developers.
The situation got much better after the first two major updates, giving players the ability to have more than one spaceship and build bases. However, the key was the Atlas Rises expansion that added a trading system, more planet types, and even massively improved the story mode. By now, it's one of the best-received MMOs with a bright feature and lots more content to come!
4. The Division
When Ubisoft introduced The Division, it immediately caught everyone's attention with its gorgeous graphics. However, once it finally launched, gamers were both angry and disappointed! The main problem was the gameplay riddled with bugs, boring missions, and lifeless environments. While many decided to abandon it, those who had the patience were rewarded!
The improvements started with exciting Survival expansion as you had to fight enemies, cold, hunger, thirst, and diseases. The new modes kept coming, the old ones got better, while the map size also grew. The Division was a story with a fairytale ending, as it sold more than 10 million copies and earned a worthy sequel.
3. Street Fighter V
Gran Turismo Sport and Driveclub seriously lacked content on their release dates, but next to Street Fighter V, they looked feature-rich! With only 16 fighters available, the game was far behind all of its rivals, but the lack of modes was even worse. In the offline play, the story mode consisted of two to three single-round fights against incapable AI. Online was tragic, as the servers barely functioned. Also, anyone could rage quit the match without being punished. Finally, the bugs were everywhere, which is rare in fighting games.
Despite the awful reviews, Capcom kept investing time and money, adding new content through tons of free updates and paid DLCs. The servers also got into the top shape while adding modes. Even the gameplay improved with better balance and new techniques available to all the characters. It took a couple of years, but Street Fighter V is now one of the best fighting games you can find. Just make sure to get the latest version with all the updates in one package.
2. Batman: Arkham Knight
The launch of the last Batman Arkham game on PC couldn't be any worse! Pretty much everything went wrong, so the game was poorly optimized, had a high number of bugs, and sometimes didn't work at all! The whole thing was so embarrassing that Warner Bros. Interactive decided to pull the plug and stop selling the game. Only six months later, the title was offered again, already pre-patched to solve many issues.
The PC version got many additional graphical settings and was no longer locked to 30 frames per second. The performance improved significantly, and most of the bugs were eradicated. As an apology, gamers also got free DLC that included everything but the console-exclusive content. With a few additional tweaks, the game was totally fixed, and is now one of the best Batman games ever.
1. Final Fantasy XIV
So far, we've seen that some developers took a drastic measure to (successfully) improve their games, resorting to massive patches or even suspending sales. However, that pales in comparison to what Square Enix did with Final Fantasy XIV. Released in 2010, this MMORPG was a massive disappointment, offering awful performance and a confusing interface. However, when no patches could save the game, the company decided to build it from the ground up!
So in 2012, the Final Fantasy XIV was reborn as a completely new experience, often dubbed Version 2.0. This was a radical change, as the graphics engine was completely new, with an improved interface, gameplay, and even story elements. A decade after the launch, the game had more than 20 million players and four successful expansion packs. With a version for PlayStation 5, it seems that Final Fantasy XIV will be online for a long time!
When the developers and publishers are willing to accept their mistakes, the gamers are ready to give them a second chance. All these titles we've talked about are very enjoyable now, with a few of them ranking among the best games ever. We can only hope that everything mentioned on our top ten list will become a thing of past.
What is your favorite game that has successfully recovered after a tragic launch? Do these launch disasters influence your decision on future preorders? We'd love to hear your opinion!
Cover photo: Warner Bros. promo