Mike is a freelance writer exploring obscure media, wyrd tales, and cultural oddities.
Ever heard someone say that "they're not angry, they're just disappointed?" It feels worse than if they were actually angry, doesn't it? But such is the feeling many gamers have towards publishers when games are not up to their expectations. Considering the average cost of a AAA game these days and the years of hype that typically precede them, it's hard not to see why.
Making a video game requires a considerable investment of time and money. As a result, game publishers have to market like crazy to try and ensure that they see a return on their investments. Sometimes it pays off, but sometimes these fire-stoking marketing techniques come back to burn them when they cannot deliver the goods.
The games on this list aren't necessarily bad. On the contrary, a fair few of them are really quite good. For one reason or another, though, they weren't quite up to scratch in the eyes of fans upon release.
Top 7 Overhyped Games
- Aliens: Colonial Marines
- Fallout 76
- Star Wars: Battlefront II
- Duke Nukem Forever
- No Man's Sky
- E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
- Cyberpunk 2077
1. Aliens: Colonial Marines
Billed by Sega and 20th Century Fox as a spiritual successor to the 1986 film Aliens, the early demos of Aliens: Colonial Marines showed promise. Indeed, it seemed that developers Gearbox had created an Aliens universe that was gripping, dark, and authentic. "We're big Alien nerds," Gearbox head Randy Pitchford would tell the media. "It's a big, exciting thing that we're really committed to and proud to be a part of." Unfortunately, what fans got in 2013 was a glitchy, incomplete, and often illogical mess. The game didn't hold a candle to its own 2011 screening.
So what happened? For starters, there were reportedly issues backstage between Sega and developer Gearbox. And things only got more complicated when Gearbox outsourced much of the work to another developer, TimeGate. And eventually, time restraints and miscommunication led to a stinker of a game.
2. Fallout 76
"There was very little we didn't screw up," Bethesda's Tom Howard lamented while looking back on the launch of Fallout 76. And while today the game is in a much better state, it's hard not to feel like Fallout 76 didn't live up to expectations upon release.
Indeed, as IGN put it, the game initially felt like an "experiment gone awry." The problem here, ironically, was for all the thousands of online players, the world of Fallout 76 was too empty, with few NPCs and little to do. All of which was likely not helped by the excessive amount of bugs, even by Bethesda standards.
3. Star Wars: Battlefront II
With Star Wars: Battlefront II, EA and developer DICE looked to right some wrongs from previous entries. But despite plenty of hype, the game failed to meet sales targets and left EA in hot water with fans. In particular, many took issue with the game's integration of loot boxes, with EA taking the controversial approach of blending microtransactions and game progression. The backlash was so bad that it caused EA stocks to drop and forced the brand to backtrack on the issue at the time.
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4. Duke Nukem Forever
Once upon a time, Duke Nukem was considered a cigar-smoking badass who struck a chord with the youth of the day. However, in 2011, following years of delay and setback, the Duke and his new game found themselves at odds with a new generation of gamers, with both appearing dated upon release.
Uninspired level designs, long loading times, and a slew of technical shortcomings led to the game being critically panned. The Duke's misogynistic and fecal-centered humor didn't do the game any favors either. And soon, a character who used to be a significant part of the gaming community became nothing more than a forgotten oddity.
5. No Man's Sky
Today, No Man's Sky is a great game and a testament to the developer's continued commitment to their vision. The original game that Hello Games delivered wasn't all that bad either. The problem is that it didn't deliver on many things the developers had promised.
"We definitely messed up a whole bunch of communication," admitted Hello Games founder Sean Murrey. "I was naive and overly excited about my game. There are a lot of things around launch that I regret, or that I would do differently."
6. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
In the winter of 1982, the once-dominant video game pioneers Atari found themselves losing out on their market share to competitors like the Commodore 64. As a result, they were in dire need of a big breakthrough. They hedged their bets on coat-tailing the box-office success of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial with a video game tie-in of the same name.
The company budgeted $5 million for what was then the biggest ever advertising campaign for a video game. However, counter to this, they gave programmer Howard Scott Warshaw five weeks for a project that would typically take at least six months. The results would speak for themselves in the worse way possible.
Sales of E.T. were initially high, but then word spread of the game's many issues. As a result, sales dropped, cartridges soon started returning from the retailers, and the game ultimately failed to meet Atari's lofty expectations. And although it cannot be entirely blamed for the video game industry crash that followed, it is often seen as the turning point of the industry's fortunes.
7. Cyberpunk 2077
To say that Cyberpunk 2077 received a lot of hype would be the greatest understatement in video game history. The game promised a futuristic, dystopian, immersive open world that featured Hollywood megastar Keanu Reeves as its poster boy, no less. The fact that CD Project Red, the studio behind The Witcher 3, had a lot of goodwill going into the project only peaked optimism further, and the multiple delays only seemed to build anticipation.
The first warning signs that something was amiss with the game came via lukewarm critics. Soon after that, clips of the game's many glitches and bugs began flooding the internet, and what was meant to be a magnum opus for CD Project Red became the laughing stock of the internet.
Somehow, despite Cyberpunk being in production for years, the game still felt incomplete. In response, the studio offered apologies and promised to fix the game. This was not good enough for Sony, who went so far as to remove the game from its store and offer refunds.
© 2022 Mike Grindle