Incredible Games That Recovered from Disastrous Launches

Video game launches aren't always sunshine and rainbows. More often than not, a game launches only to be met with negative receptions from both fans and critics alike. This effectively condemns it to failure, even after what are sometimes multiple future attempts to fix and improve the game. However, while the gaming industry has seen its fair share of flops, some video games have managed to rise above it all.

Below is a list of ten incredible games that, despite disastrous launches, have gone on to become even better than what the developers initially envisioned.

1. No Man’s Sky

No Man's Sky is Exhibit A in why developers should never oversell and under deliver.

It's hard to think of a relevant and recent example without ever coming up with No Man's Sky.

Indie developer, Hello Games, promised gamers a procedurally generated universe filled with wonder, mystery, and exploration. Players believed that every planet was to be filled to the brim with detail from seemingly intelligent creatures and a chance to interact with other players.

Unfortunately, this wasn't what players got at launch. Instead, No Man's Sky was essentially a cumbersome survival game. Even worse was that the multiplayer experience was nowhere to be found. It also didn't help that No Man's Sky didn't give players an incentive to go out and explore.

To make matters worse, Hello Games failed to reassure gamers that they were working on fixing the game for the first few months following its launch by choosing to remain silent.

Although it's debatable whether this was the right move or not, we can't deny that their decision to focus instead on working hard so that the game actually delivered on their initial promise paid off.

From an open-world game with so few things for players to do, the game now lets players ride land vehicles, fleets, build bases. The best part here is the way each planet is generated now. It's because each one more unique than before. This makes exploring the universe feel a lot more exciting.

Hello Games recently released the Next Generation update. This improves on already-existing content for next-gen consoles such as Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5.

Three major updates in and No Man's Sky has become more like what Hello Games initially promised.

2. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

More than a decade later, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn stands a proof on why you shouldn't always give up so easily.

Most titles on our list went from bad to good after launch. Final Fantasy XIV is unique in that it went from bad to actually being scrapped before being re-released in a package that would eventually become one of the best MMOs of all time.

First released in 2010 by Square Enix, Final Fantasy XIV was immediately bombarded with negative reviews. Fans and critics alike criticized the game's lack of content and repetitive gameplay. Meanwhile, further making matters worse was the numerous glitches and issues that made the game unplayable for a lot of players.

The game was so bad that, just months after launch, Square Enix decided to bring in an entirely different team spearheaded by Naoki "Yoshi-P" Yoshida to fix the game.

Yoshi-P eventually took the servers down to make way for a proper remake in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.

The re-released MMO title featured a much better plot and storyline. More importantly, it was more in line with previous Final Fantasy titles. It was something that players could actually feel invested in. Not to mention, Yoshi-P's team had drastically improved the gameplay experience.

To this day, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn receives constant updates with a steadily increasing player count that shows no signs of slowing down.

3. Diablo 3

Blizzard essentially gimped Diablo 3's chances of ever-surpassing its predecessor, Diablo 2, with one questionable decision after another following the game's launch.

The most prevalent issue with Diablo 3 was its always-online DRM requirement. This forced players to connect to the internet and the game's servers, even when only playing the story mode. What made this matter even worse was that the game's servers could not handle the massive influx of people logging into the game simultaneously.

It would take Blizzard months to fix this issue. Even then, Diablo 3 continued to suffer from Blizzard's decision to add the Auction House.

This feature essentially gave players a chance to make a profit out of Diablo 3 by letting them buy and sell high-level loot in exchange for real-world currency. This practically broke the game's economy. It made playing the game online unfair for everyone except for those who could afford to spend a lot of money on the game.

Luckily, Blizzard was able to right the proverbial ship just in time for the game's first major expansion, Reaper of Souls.

In addition to adding more story content and an all-new character class, the update brought Adventure mode and Seasons into the game. This upped the game's replay value as players no longer had to play through story chapters multiple times just to get the best in-game loot. Even better, Blizzard decided to finally scrap the auction house.

What has followed Diablo 3 since is a series of both small and huge updates to the game that has turned it into a proper sequel worthy of the Diablo name.

4. Skyrim

Broken and unplayable for months for certain players, it's surprising that Skyrim went on to become arguably the most popular open-world game of its generation.

Has there been a more ported video game than Skyrim?

After releasing on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC, back in 2011, Skyrim was ported over the next-generation of consoles, including the Nintendo Switch, with a standalone VR title for Windows PCs released in 2018.

In fact, with Skyrim having been ported to other platforms numerous times already, we're surprised that Bethesda isn't working on an official PS5 or Xbox Series X/S port (as far as we know).

With that said, Skyrim didn't exactly have that good of a launch.

Advertised as a game that let players go wherever they wanted, Skyrim suffered from multiple technical issues and glitches from Day 1. This was even more evident for those playing the game on the PlayStation 3, as Skyrim would slow down before eventually crashing completely just hours after playing the game as the game's cache filled up.

It would take Bethesda multiple attempts to fix this bug following the game's launch, but not before it caused a lot of headaches.

Luckily, Bethesda has some of the most forgiving fans in video game history, so Skyrim's disastrous launch wasn't as highly publicized. However, you can't deny that even today, Skyrim remains a broken game, but one that players have come to accept and decided to fix on their own.

5. Grand Theft Auto Online

Grand Theft Auto Online has become so popular that it's set to release as a standalone title on next-gen consoles sometime this year.

Rockstar Games probably didn't know it at launch, but they had cash cow in Grand Theft Auto Online in their hands.

The game's single-player component, Grand Theft Auto V, was already a commercially and critically acclaimed game, one that broke sales records in, well, record time. But, its multiplayer component wasn't exactly as well-received at first.

From server crashes to gameplay issues and glitches, as well as lack of overall content, Rockstar Games quickly found out with Grand Theft Auto Online that it's not so easy to launch a successful live service game. However, through subsequent updates and improvements over the years, GTA Online has improved significantly and become a completely different game from the single-player campaign. The game is still extremely popular today and enjoyed by millions.

6. Batman: Arkham Knight

Perhaps Warner Bros. intentionally gimped the PC release so that players wouldn't focus too much on the fact that the Arkham Knight was obviously Jason Todd.

Batman: Arkham Knight has arguably one of the more divisive launches in gaming history.

On one hand, it was the fastest-selling video game of the entire Arkham series of video games and of the entirety of 2015. On the other hand, it was largely unplayable for a huge chunk of the player base.

The Microsoft Windows version of the game was filled with numerous texture and performance issues that Warner Bros. had no choice but to stop selling the game and issue refunds just a few days into its release.

It would take years and multiple patches before Arkham Knight became fully playable on the PC.

If it's any consolation though, the game played beautifully on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, with the disastrous PC launch quite possibly playing a huge role in Warner Bros. deciding to make all DLC for the game free years after it launched.

7. Rainbow Six Siege

Ubisoft's Rainbow Six franchise has long been known to put out high-quality tactical shooters. Rainbow Six Siege was no exception. However, while the shooter impressed audiences and critics with its gameplay, the hype quickly fizzled out when everyone realized that there was very little for players to do in the game.

Luckily, Ubisoft wasn't about to give up just yet.

Having a dedicated team of more than 80 people working hard to improve the game since day one, Ubisoft slowly but steadily earned the trust of the game's now-thriving community, with a healthy mix of microtransactions and free content, as well as interesting game modes, maps, and characters, all helping to turn the game into one of the marquee esport titles on the market.

8. Street Fighter V

While releasing an incomplete game is inexcusable, Capcom deserves kudos for turning things around with Street Fighter V.

Capcom can seemingly do no wrong now with back-to-back successful releases and highly anticipated titles like Resident Evil Village. However, just a couple of years ago, the Osaka-based video game company had found itself in hot water with numerous botched releases, with none more infamous than that of Street Fighter V.

It was evident right from the get-go that Capcom had haphazardly put the game together just so it can be ready for the game's community of die-hard fans and a robust competitive tournament scene.

From the lack of modes available to a small roster of fighters, as well the game being unplayable online, Capcom had a lot of work to do with Street Fighter V if it were to meet fan expectations. But, we'd have to give credit where credit's due. This is because Capcom did roll up their sleeves to fix the game, starting with the net code so that players could play against each other online with no problems.

Still, while Street Fighter V eventually became a premier fighting game, that doesn't excuse Capcom for releasing a half-finished game and charge players full price.

9. Fortnite

Epic Games' Fortnite might not have been the first Battle Royale title on the market, but it's certainly the most profitable.

Knowing this, you might find it surprising that the game didn't start out this way.

First released in July 2017 as a paid early access title, Fortnite was initially a co-op sandbox survival game with base building mechanics. It was essentially a tower-defense title in shooter form. It featured players fighting against waves upon waves of computer-controlled enemies.

Now, while this mode was and still is fun, it's not exactly for everybody.

The Fortnite that most of us have come to love (or hate) was released in September of 2017. However, it wasn't met with a lot of hype back then. Many players saw the game as a complete ripoff of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.

It would take many months and multiple updates before Fortnite became "good enough" in the eyes of many. This is the result of Epic constantly introducing unique and fun plotlines each season, as well as other cosmetics and modes, to help keep the game fresh and interesting in the eyes of players.

To this day, Fortnite remains one of the most popular shooters on the market, raking in around $5 billion in revenue in 2020 alone.

10. Destiny

While Destiny 2's release didn't exactly go all too well itself, Destiny's initial launch period went way worse and took longer for Bungie to recover from.

Bungie, the former developers of the Halo franchise, was naturally met with a welcome embrace when they announced that they were working on the first-person shooter/RPG hybrid that went on to become the Destiny franchise.

When the game released, however, Bungie found out how quickly fans can turn against their beloved developers.

While many gamers loved the mechanical execution of Destiny's gameplay, people found it very bare and boring. A lot of players also expressed disappointment with the confusing systems that made it difficult to enjoy the game's otherwise amazing combat.

Later on, players would find out that Bungie had decided to scrap most of the game's content a year before launch. This resulted in the unfinished game that released in 2014.

It wasn't until Bungie released The Taken King in 2015, a little over a year after the game's initial release date, that they were able to make a substantial enough of an improvement for many to see it as the game that it was initially billed to be.

Unfortunately, Bungie seems to have not learned their lesson. Destiny 2, the game's sequel, shipped in 2017 with its own set of problems. This further alienated the franchise's longtime fans, but that's a story for another time.

Cyberpunk 2077 - Honorable Mention

Not even the presence of the ever-popular Keanu Reeves was enough to make gamers turn a blind eye to all the shortcomings of Cyberpunk 2077.

The jury's still out on Cyberpunk 2077. Has it successfully redeemed itself already? Probably not. However, the game's only been out for months. Not to mention, the developers, CD Projekt Red, seems intent on repairing the relationship between them and the players.

With multiple DLCs still expected to come to Cyberpunk 2077, CDPR still has time to win back their fans and perhaps earn a place on this list.

Ray Ampoloquio
Ray is a lifelong gamer with a nose for keeping up with the latest news in and out of the gaming industry. When he's not reading, writing, editing, and playing video games, he builds and repairs computers in his spare time. You can find Ray on Twitter.
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