As a hit driven business, the great majority of the video game industry’s software releases have been commercial failures. In the early 21st century, industry commentators made these general estimates: 10% of published games generated 90% of revenue, that around 3% of PC games and 15% of console games have global sales of more than 100,000 per year, with even this level insufficient to make high-budget titles profitable; and that about 20% of games make a profit.
Some of these have drastically changed the video game market since its birth in the late 1970s. For example, the failures of E.T. and Pac-Man for the Atari 2600 contributed to the video game crash of 1983. Some games, despite being commercial failures, are well received by certain groups of gamers and are considered cult games. Take a look below for 10 of the biggest gaming failures of the 2010s.
1. Fallout 76
Fallout 76 is an online action role-playing game in the Fallout series developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. Released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on November 14, 2018, it is a prequel to previous series games. Fallout 76 is Bethesda Game Studios’s first multiplayer game; players explore the open world, which has been torn apart by nuclear war, with others. Bethesda developed the game using a modified version of its Creation Engine, which allowed the accommodation of multiplayer gameplay and a more detailed game world.
Fallout 76 was released to generally mixed reviews, with criticism for the game’s numerous technical issues, overall design, lack of gameplay purpose, and initial absence of human non-playable characters. The game was the subject of several controversies, chiefly in regards to the quality of physical content. A number of Bethesda’s responses and attempts to resolve issues related to Fallout 76 in the months following its launch were also met with player disgruntlement.
Anthem is an online multiplayer action role-playing video game developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts. The game was released worldwide for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on February 22, 2019.
Set on an unnamed planet, players assume the role of Freelancers, heroic adventurers who wear powerful exosuits to defend humanity from the threats beyond their cities’ walls. The game’s title refers to the Anthem of Creation, a powerful and mysterious force responsible for most of the extraordinary technology, phenomena, and threats in the world. In the main narrative, the player’s Freelancer is tasked with stopping the villainous Monitor from seizing control of the Anthem.
Anthem received mixed reviews from critics, who criticized it for its grind, technical aspects, and story, contributing to an experience that felt repetitive and shallow, although its combat, flight controls, and visuals received some praise. Despite some positive sales achievements, the game failed to meet Electronic Arts’ commercial expectations.
3. The Ouya
The Ouya, stylized as OUYA, is an Android-based microconsole developed by Ouya Inc. Julie Uhrman founded the project in 2012, bringing in designer Yves Béhar to collaborate on its design and Muffi Ghadiali as VP of Product Management to put together the engineering team. Development was funded via Kickstarter, raising $8.5 million and becoming the website’s ninth-highest earning project in its history at the time.
Units started to ship to Kickstarter backers in March 2013 and were released to the general public in June 2013. It features an exclusive Ouya store for applications and games designed specifically for the Ouya platform, of which the majority are casual games targeted at or used by a mass audience of casual gamers. Out of the box, Ouya supports media apps such as Twitch.tv and XBMC media player.
It runs a modified version of Android Jelly Bean, with rooting being officially encouraged. The console’s hardware design allows it to be easily opened up, requiring only a standard screwdriver for easy modding and possible hardware add-ons.
All systems can be used as development kits, allowing any Ouya owner to also be a developer, without the need for licensing fees. All games were initially required to have some kind of free-to-play aspect, whether that be completely free, has a free trial, or has purchasable upgrades, levels, or other in-game items. This requirement was later removed.
Despite the successful Kickstarter campaign, sales of the Ouya were lackluster, causing financial problems for Ouya Inc. and forcing the company to wind down the business. Its software assets were sold to Razer Inc., who announced the discontinuation of the Ouya console in July 2015. Razer continued to provide software support for existing Ouya units until June 2019, when it shut down Ouya storefront, services and accounts, making most apps on the console unusable. The Ouya has since been considered a commercial failure.
4. Star Wars Battlefront 2
Star Wars Battlefront II is an action shooter video game based on the Star Wars film franchise. It is the fourth major installment of the Star Wars: Battlefront series and seventh overall, and a sequel to the 2015 reboot of the series. It was developed by EA DICE, in collaboration with Criterion Games and Motive Studios, and published by Electronic Arts. The game was released worldwide on November 17, 2017 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows.
Upon release, Battlefront II received mixed reviews from critics. The game was also subject to widespread criticism regarding the status of its loot boxes, which could give players substantial gameplay advantages if purchased with real money. A response from EA’s community team on Reddit on the topic became the single most downvoted comment in the site’s history – and in response, EA decided to temporarily remove microstransaction from the game until a later date.
In January 2018, EA announced that the micro-transactions would return “in the next few months”. These returning microtransactions are purely cosmetic, do not affect gameplay, and are purchased directly through in-game currency rather than through loot crates.
Battleborn is an online first-person shooter video game developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The game was released worldwide on May 3, 2016.
Battleborn is a hero shooter with elements of multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBA). Players select one of several pre-designed characters with different attacks and skills, and participate in either single player, cooperative matches, or competitive matches with other players. During matches, players gain experience to advance their character along the Helix Tree, selecting from one of two new abilities or buffs with each advancement step that allows the player to create a custom loadout for that character for the duration of that match.
Furthermore, as the player completes matches, they earn randomized gear (generated similarly to the Borderlands series’ randomized weapon feature) that can also be equipped as part of the loadout to provide further buffs and abilities, or purchased through microtransactions.
The game received mixed reviews upon release, with reviewers citing on the difficulties of learning the complex gameplay systems as being ultimately deep and rewarding but off-putting to new players. Battleborn was overshadowed by Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch, another hero shooter, that was released a few weeks later and which caused a large drop in Battleborn’s player count within the month, and Gearbox has made adjustments in pricing and downloadable content to try to draw new players to the game. In June 2017, it was transitioned to a pricing scheme comparable to a free to play title.
6. No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky is an action-adventure survival game developed and published by the indie studio Hello Games. It was released worldwide for the PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows in August 2016, and for Xbox One in July 2018. The game is built around four pillars: exploration, survival, combat, and trading. Players are free to perform within the entirety of a procedurally generated deterministic open world universe, which includes over 18 quintillion planets.
Through the game’s procedural generation system, planets have their own ecosystems with unique forms of flora and fauna, and various sentient alien species may engage the player in combat or trade within planetary systems. Players advance in the game by mining for resources to power and improve their equipment, buying and selling resources using credits earned by documenting flora and fauna, and otherwise seeking out the mystery around the Atlas, an entity at the center of the galaxy.
The founder of Hello Games, Sean Murray, had wanted to create a game that captured the sense of exploration and optimism of science fiction writings and art of the 1970s and 1980s with No Man’s Sky. The game was developed over three years by a small team at Hello Games with promotional and publishing help from Sony Interactive Entertainment. The game was seen as an ambitious project by a small team by the gaming media, and Murray and Hello Games drew significant attention leading to its release.
No Man’s Sky received mixed reviews at its 2016 launch, with some critics praising the technical achievements of the procedurally generated universe, while others considered the gameplay lackluster and repetitive. However, the critical response was marred by the lack of several features that had been reported to be in the game, particularly multiplayer capabilities, though Murray had tried to downplay expectations prior to release. The game was further criticized due to Hello Games’ lack of communication in the months following the launch, creating a hostile backlash from some of its player base.
Murray stated later that Hello Games had failed to control the exaggerated expectations of the game from the media and the larger-than-expected player count at launch, and since have taken an approach of remaining quiet about updates to No Man’s Sky until they are nearly ready to ship to avoid miscommunication. The promotion and marketing for No Man’s Sky became a subject of debate, and the video game industry has used No Man’s Sky as an example of missteps to avoid in marketing.
7. Duke Nukem Forever
Duke Nukem Forever is a 2011 first person shooter video game for Windows, OS X, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. It is a sequel to the 1996 game Duke Nukem 3D as part of the long-running Duke Nukem series. Duke Nukem Forever entered development in 1997 at 3D Realms and Triptych Games and was finished by Gearbox Software and Piranha Games in 2011.
In the game, the player controls Duke Nukem, an action hero who must come out of retirement and save the world from aliens when they begin kidnapping the women of Earth.
Duke Nukem Forever was originally announced in 1997 as the follow up to Duke Nukem 3D, but became a notable example of vaporware due to its severely protracted development schedule, which saw the game being delayed numerous times and had 3D Realms, which was being underfunded and laying off staff in 2009, become involved in a lawsuit with publisher Take-Two Interactive.
In 2010, Gearbox took over the game’s development and finished the game on behalf of 3D Realms. Finally released on June 14, 2011, Duke Nukem Forever earned mostly negative reviews from critics, who criticized the graphics, dated humor and story, simplistic mechanics, and unpolished performance and design.
8. Mass Effect: Andromeda
Mass Effect: Andromeda is an action role-playing video game developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts. The fourth major entry in the Mass Effect series, it was originally released in March 2017 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The game is set in the Andromeda Galaxy during the 29th century, where humanity is planning to populate new home worlds as part of a strategy called the Andromeda Initiative.
The player assumes the role of either Scott or Sara Ryder, an inexperienced military recruit who joins the Initiative and wakes up in Andromeda following a 634-year journey. Events transpire that result in Ryder becoming humanity’s Pathfinder, tasked with finding a new home world for humanity while also dealing with an antagonistic alien race known as the Kett, and uncovering the secrets of a mysterious synthetic race known as the Remnant.
For Mass Effect: Andromeda, BioWare incorporated a lighter tone than previous installments in the series, utilized open world elements, and placed an emphasis on exploration. Many of the series’ traditional gameplay elements remained, while others were modified, such as combat, which is less cover-based and more mobile. The game is the largest in the series, and offers the player the freedom to focus on either the main quest or side quests. Its score was composed by John Paesano and aims to match the game’s mood by capturing the adventure of space exploration.
In contrast to the original Mass Effect trilogy, which was spearheaded by BioWare’s Edmonton studio, Mass Effect: Andromeda was handled by a new team out of Montreal. The game experienced a troubled production cycle that saw many members of its leadership team depart mid-project and numerous changes in creative vision.
It was built using the Frostbite 3 engine, which required that BioWare construct all systems, tools, and assets from scratch as the series was previously built in Unreal Engine 3. Following the game’s release, BioWare released several patches in response to critical feedback, but decided not to release further single-player downloadable content additions.
Mass Effect: Andromeda was announced in June 2015 and immediately became a highly anticipated game. Upon release, it received generally mixed reviews from critics, who praised the game’s improved combat and visuals while criticizing its character animations and technical issues. As of September 2017, the game has shipped over two million copies worldwide.
9. Microsoft’s 2013 E3 Conference
Microsoft’s press conference took place on June 10 at 9:30AM. The company announced a November 2013 release date for its forthcoming Xbox One console, priced at $499. The software lineup was also revealed, including Dead Rising 3, Quantum Break, Ryse: Son of Rome and the next installment of Halo, later revealed to be Halo 5: Guardians.
Controversy arose during Microsoft’s showcase of Killer Instinct when an apparent reference to rape was made between the on-stage demonstrators. Microsoft later apologized for the incident and stated that the remarks were not scripted.
10. The Slaughterhouse Grounds
The Slaughtering Grounds is a first-person shooter survival horror video game developed and published by Digital Homicide Studios under the pseudonym”Imminent Uprising”. It was released for Microsoft Windows on October 31, 2014, via Steam.
The game did not attract much attention until it was criticized by Jim Sterling (formerly of The Escapist) as a “new ‘worst game of 2014’ contender”, citing its poor graphics, numerous glitches, bad controls, short music loops, and use of pre-made models and textures not made by the developer. Sterling later used the game as an example of the lack of artistic cohesion that usually results from what he termed asset flipping, specifically drawing attention to the inconsistent enemy types and the placement of a United States Postal Service post box next to a London telephone booth.
In addition to his negative first impression video of the game, Jim Sterling also accused the developers of deleting negative feedback on the game from Steam’s review page, as well as banning users who criticized it. The developers responded by filing a take down notice over Sterling’s video.