Some games have such a disastrous impact that they can even destroy those responsible for their existence. Listed below are ten tales of arrogance, hype, tragedy, stupidity and crushed dreams. These ladies and gentlemen, are the games that killed their creators.
10/ Hellgate: London (2007)
Hellgate: London is a textbook example of biting off more than you can chew. The game was developed by Flagship Studios, a company that was founded by former Blizzard employees, many of whom had worked on the acclaimed Diablo series. With excessively high expectations and lofty ambitions, the game was destined to flop, likely in no small part to its PC-only release and its rushed development time. The well-meaning inexperience of the young company eventually manifested itself with Hellgate being released with technical issues and broken promises, its failure to live up to the hype surely contributing to mediocre reviews. The game was ultimately such a commercial disaster that Flagship was forced to file for bankruptcy soon after, with the servers taken down less than 2 years after they opened.
9/ Too Human (2008)
Too Human was the hotly anticipated Microsoft-exclusive title that took ten years to develop and spanned three console versions before its final release on the Xbox 360. The esteemed Silicon Knights exclusivity contract had been highly sought-after, especially after success with the Metal Gear Solid franchise and the Gamecube’s brilliant Eternal Darkness, so when the generic and distinctly average Too Human finally hit the shelves, both critics and fans were surprised in equal measure. It was quickly realised that the boring hack ‘n’ slash was something of a flop, soon forcing the formerly prestigious studio into huge lay-offs and financial restructuring.
8/ Psychonauts (2005)
It’s a crying shame that a game of such obvious quality helped bring about a financial nightmare for its publisher, but unfortunately Tim Schafer’s excellent Psychonauts did exactly that for Majesco. Despite exhibiting a number of innovative features and receiving endless praise from reviewers, the game sold poorly and was thusly one of the primary factors that attributed to Majesco’s massive losses later that year and its current continual struggle for survival.
7/ Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness (2003)
A classic case of rushing a game to market, Angel of Darkness was a hastily released game that was forced onto the market in order to boost the annual financial report of the game’s publishers, Eidos. Unsurprisingly, the game was riddled with bugs and displayed a general lack of polish, which of course resulted in universal industry disdain, critical panning and slow sales. Angel of Darkness was the first nail in the coffin rather than the last, though it nevertheless set Eidos on the path to its cash-strapped future and eventual buy-out by Square-Enix.
6/ Haze (2008)
A recurring theme in this list, high hopes were placed upon Free Radical Design, the creators of the fantastic Timesplitter’s franchise with its roots in the legendary Goldeneye, when they first announced an FPS for the Playstation 3. Haze was the game that was finally released after months of hype, yet somehow it wasn’t what everyone was expecting; rather it was a shoddily made and badly executed shooter. Widespread disbelief soon turned into apathy, and the sluggish sales that followed forced Ubisoft to cancel the 360 and PC versions. With one day to spare before bankruptcy, Free Radical Design was bought by Crytek and was thankfully saved from the fate that was met by so many on this list.
5/ Shenmue (1999)
Massively ambitious, massively funded and massively hyped, Shenmue was the game Sega hoped would revolutionise the industry. If critical acclaim was the only measure of success, then Sega would have been some way to achieving this goal: unfortunately for them, it’s not. Although it is a little harsh to blame the downfall of Sega upon this gargantuan project, its budget of $70 million meant that every Dreamcast owner would have to buy 2 copies each simply for Sega to break even. Along with the failures of the Saturn, the Dreamcast and Sonic’s awkward first steps into the realm of 3D, the commercial disaster surrounding the development and release of Shenmue represents the sad transition of Sega from a giant 1st party industry oligarch to lowly 3rd-party software developer.
4/ Duke Nukem Forever (FFFFFUUUUUUU....)
Like Sonic, Duke has trouble with 3d realms. Whereas the blue hedgehog had trouble with the concept, Duke Nukem was a game that has been scheduled for release almost every year since its announcement in 1997 by the developer 3D Realms. The undisputed king of vaporware, Duke Nukem Forever epitomises the notion of ‘development hell’ and is almost solely responsible for the current legal and cashflow problems currently plaguing the so-called ‘developer’.
3/ Daikatana (2000)
Created in an orgy of money, enthusiasm and media coverage, Ion Storm was the pin-up studio of the industry in 1996. Headed up by gaming gods like Doom brainchild John Romero, even distasteful marketing campaigns and the diabolical release of Dominion: SOG 3 weren’t enough to dampen the anticipation of Daikatana. Years late and hugely over budget, the final game was met with low sales and even lower review scores, sending Ion Storm to their abrupt but deserved doom.
2/ Okami (2006)
Secures second spot and scores so highly on this list not because of mismanagement, over-hype or even sub-par quality, rather because it reflects the high level of tragedy that is Clover Studio’s demise. Though never directly blamed for the closure of the studio that brought us wonderful gems like God Hand and Viewtiful Joe, Okami did suffer from underwhelming sales figures that were in stark juxtaposition to the lavish praise and industry awards that were bestowed upon the inventive and beautiful game. It was to be Clover Studio’s final release and the breakaway developer that formed seem to have taken some of that magic with them, as is evident in the divisive yet bizarrely awesome Bayonetta.
1/ E.T (1982)
The development and failure of ET is a story that has become legend in the industry; a fable that forewarns the publishers of today of the perils of arrogance. With only 5 weeks and nothing more than his own abilities at his disposal, Howard Warshaw was tasked by Atari with creating the tie-in for the massively popular ET movie for Atari’s 2600 system. Undeniably not Warshaw’s fault, the game was shockingly poorly made and full of design flaws and bugs, yet that did not deter Atari from manufacturing millions of units (even more than the amount of shipped Atari 2600’s) in anticipation of a busy Christmas season. Gamers could see through the bullshit and consumer loyalty to Atari had recently waned (in no small part due to the disgraceful Pacman 2600 port), so predictably Atari only sold a fraction of what they had expected. Even the weight of Spielberg’s IP was insufficient to prevent the infamous 1983 videogame crash, which ended up with millions of copies of working E.T. cartridges dumped into a New Mexico landfill. Publishers: you have been warned.