Video gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry where one successful title can lead to an enormous financial return. For every successful video game title, there are numerous disasters that may bankrupt an entire company. We have compiled the Top Ten Video Game Disasters.
Beyond Good & Evil
- This game was highly acclaimed and stated to be the first part of a trilogy, however flopped commercially. Many game historians note that the releases of Prince of Persia and Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell negatively affected this game. Ubisoft was then forced to postpone plans for all subsequent titles to the trilogy.
10. Dominion: Storm Over Gift 3
- The first title released by Ion Storm, Dominion was a real time strategy title similar to Command & Conquer and Warcraft. The game was originally developed by 7th Level, but was purchased by Ion Storm for US$1.8 million. The project originally had a budget of US$50,000 and was scheduled to be finished in three months with two staff members. Due to mismanagement and Ion Storm's inexperience, the project took over a year, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.Dominion was released in July, 1998. It received bad reviews and sold poorly, falling far short of recouping its purchase price, let alone the cost of finishing it. The game divided employees working on Ion's marquee title, Daikatana, arguably leading to the walkout of several key development team members. It put a strain on Ion Storm's finances, leading the once well-funded startup to scramble for cash as Daikatana's development extended over several years.
- The brainchild of Ion Storm developer John Romero, Daikatana was a first-person shooter for the PC and Nintendo 64. The initial design had been completed in March 1997 and Romero believed the game could be finished a mere seven months later, in time for the Christmas 1997 retail season, using the Quake video game engine. However, Id software showed the Quake II engine at E3 in June 1997, so Romero decided to upgrade Daikatana for it. This switch was more difficult than first imagined and pushed the game's release schedule to 1998. Due to internal conflicts over the Dominion project, the entire Daikatana team (except Romero) quit and the schedule was again pushed out. A demo which only supported multiplayer deathmatch mode was released in March 1999 to lackluster reviews. At E3 1999, the game was a huge disappointment and led to the absorption of Ion Storm by publisher Eidos Interactive. In December 1999, a huge release party was held for the game which was now nearly complete, but it was not actually released until April 2000. The Nintendo 64 version fared far worse, with pared down graphics, large amounts of fog placed in levels to obscure detail, and blurriness making gameplay very difficult.
8. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
- In an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the Terminator movie franchise, Atari released Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines to correspond with the third movie in the franchise. The game was widely panned by video game reviewers and failed to catch on with gamers. A major reason for the game's failure was Atari's failure to release the game in a timely fashion. The game was only released in November 2003, several months too late to capitalize on its movie tie-in.
7. Shenmue (Dreamcast)
- Shenmue on the Dreamcast is more notorious for its overambitious budget than its poor sales figures. While it sold a respectable number of units, at the time of release, the game had the record for the most expensive production costs (over US$70 million), and its production time was 5 years. Shenmue was a critical hit, earning an average review score of 89% on Game Rankings. It also sold moderately well, with 460,316 units in the US alone (according to NPD). However, these sales figures were not enough for Sega to recoup the massive production costs. The sequel, Shenmue II, published in Japan and Europe for Dreamcast, was never released in America on the original Dreamcast console, and fans had to wait for the eventual Xbox port. However, the sales for Shenmue II on Xbox proved to be far less than those of the original game (179,648).
6. Grabbed by the Ghoulies
- The first game to be developed by Rareware for Microsoft's Xbox system was eagerly anticipated for fans of the company and the game system alike. Rare had created several innovative smash hits on previous consoles, most notably Donkey Kong Country, Killer Instinct, Banjo-Kazooie and GoldenEye 007, and Microsoft had acquired Rare, paying US$377 million. Microsoft hyped the game heavily, and even pushed for the game to be released in time for Christmas (the most lucrative period for toys and video games alike); however, the game performed extremely poorly in terms of sales, due to mixed reviews from games magazines and journalists and highly unorthodox controls.
5. The Last Express
- Released in 1997 after five years in development, this 6-million-dollar adventure game was the brainchild of Jordan Mechner, the creator of Prince of Persia. The game was noted for taking place in almost complete real-time, using Art Nouveau-style characters that were rotoscoped from a 22-day live-action video shoot, and featuring intelligent writing and levels of character depth that were not often seen in computer games. Despite rave reviews, BrÃ¸derbund, the game's publisher, did little to promote the game, apart from a brief mention in a press release and enthusiastic statements by BrÃ¸derbund executives. Released in April, the game was not a success, selling only about 100,000 copies, a million copies short of breaking even.
After the release of the game, Mechner's company Smoking Car Productions quietly folded, and BrÃ¸derbund was acquired by The Learning Company, who were only interested in BrÃ¸derbund's educational software, effectively putting the game out of print.
4. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (Atari 2600)
- Reputedly coded in just six weeks, this game was rushed to the market for the 1982 holiday season, and it was based (very loosely) on the popular E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial movie. The game was hard to play, simplistic and took place mostly in pits that the player had to somehow levitate out of. It was expected to sell millions, and even director Steven Spielberg seemed excited about the idea of having his hit movie made into a video game. Word of mouth spread fast but the video game sold extremely poorly during the holidays and beyond. Expectations were so high for this game by Atari, that warehouses were filled with cartridges for the would-be rush of buyers running to get the game. It turned out that the game was such a huge disaster, that millions of unsold excess cartridges ended up buried in a landfill in the New Mexico desert. The game is thought to be one of the main causes of the video game crash of 1983 and contributed to how Atari went from the US's greatest games publisher to a laughing stock. It is widely considered to be one of the first big video game flops ever.
The scale of the E.T. disaster has become almost legendary and the game is still well known nearly 25 years after its publication, despite the fact that few gamers today will have played the game. E.T. was ranked in 21st place in GameSpy's "25 Dumbest Moments in Video Game History". More recently, the game (and its creation process) was parodied extensively in an episode of the G4 TV show Code Monkeys.
3. Battlecruiser 3000AD
- One of the biggest video game disasters was Battlecruiser 300AD also called BC3K. This game received an enormous amount of attention for nearly a decade before it completely flopped in the United State snad Europe. Produced and developed by Derek Smart, the concept of this game was extremely ambitious as it gave the user the command of a large starship and all the responsibilities of running it. Advertisements hailed the game as "The Last Thing You'll Ever Desire" and computer forums hyped the game incessantly. As time continued, the game was delayed many times. when it was released in November 1996, by Take Two Interactive, the game was full of bugs and had unfinished areas. It was written for DOS however most people were using Windows 95. The game had MIDI music, outdated graphics and had no documentation for the commands.
2. Pac-Man (Atari 2600)
- The home version of the highly popular Pac Man arcade game was eagerly anticipated, but was an incredible failure. In 1983, Atari created twelve million cartridges in hopes of the game boosting system sales. Atari did sell close to seven million cartridges, but consumers and critics alike gave it low ratings. The game was rushed to make the 1983 Christmas season. The high number of unsold units (over five million), coupled with the expense of a large marketing campaign, led to large losses for Atari. This game, along with E.T., is often blamed for sparking the video game crash of 1983. Shortly after the disappointment of Pac-Man, Atari reported a huge quarterly loss, prompting parent company Warner Communications to sell the division off in 1984. Atari never regained a prominent position in the home console market, as Nintendo and Sega, and later Sony and Microsoft, rose to become the chief players in a market that Atari once dominated.
- Despite being a critical success and being highly innovative for a platformer, the game sold less than 90,000 copies on the PC, Xbox, and PS2. The game led to troubles at publisher Majesco, including the resignation of its CEO and the plummeting of the company's stock, prompting a class-action lawsuit by the company's stockholders. This game has been declared the "poster child" for the recent failures in innovative games. Its poor sales have also been blamed on a lack of marketing coupled with a high-end, US$50 price tag. Since this, the game has been placed onto Valve's digital distribution service, "Steam", where it is selling for a price of US$19.95, as of April 2007. Due to Valve's policy of not releasing sales statistics, it is not currently known how the game is doing in this new market.