2016's Biggest Gaming Disappointments So Far
Updated: Apr 2
In the wild world of the gaming industry, nothing is ever truly perfect. Even if the hype tells you it is, you should always take advertising with a grain of salt. Games that purport to be the next greatest thing very often end up over-promising, and developers sometimes toss out pleasing their customers in favor for making money. This is a lesson 2016 seems to be teaching us again...and again...and again.
While this year has certainly delivered some show-stopping games, it’s not all good in the ‘hood. Failed promises and changes have led to some pretty disappointing game industry moments. C’est la vie, of course, but the only way the industry can improve is to listen to their fans, and some developers just don’t seem to be doing that.
Here, we wrap up 2016’s biggest gaming disappointments, identifying what caused the games to flounder in the first place.
Caveat emptor note: You should always judge a game for yourself. One gamer’s treasure is another’s trash, so no one player’s opinion should trump another's. That, of course, includes the opinions within this article.
Easily the biggest, most talked-about smartphone game this year, Pokemon Go captured the hearts of millions all over the world. It had people walking into street signs, getting hopelessly lost in their own neighborhoods, and--most importantly--enjoying the great outdoors all over again.
Unfortunately, Pokemon Go also came with its own unique set of problems. Constant issues with the servers and a never-ending list of accidents caused by people not paying attention to what they were doing when playing, people stumbling over dead bodies and crashing cars, and even reports of people abusing the app to commit robberies eventually won it a bad name.
By August, the game was bleeding millions of players in a spiral that showed no signs of slowing down. Forbes warned that the platform was “headed for a crash,” while it continued to fall in popularity. Developers have made significant improvements, including clipping cheater wings, but it remains to be seen if this was little more than a fad, or if they’ll turn things around again for good.
Black Desert Online Wants Your Feedback...Or Not
Oh, Korean MMOs. We love to love you and hate you, all at the same time. This, of course, includes Black Desert Online, a niche game released in 2015. Surprising most people in the industry was Kakao Games’ original decision to take away player-to-player trading and cash shop to auction house purchases. It seemed, for all intents and purposes, like the company--then called Daum--really was listening to their players and valued their feedback.
But all good things come to an end, and this includes developers and publishers actually valuing your feedback instead of chasing the cash cow.
In July 2016, a shift in the company’s ambition became clear. First, a decision to allow players to buy cash shop dyes with real money and sell them on the auction house. Players felt very much like they had had the wool pulled over their eyes because the company had originally committed to never move in that direction. Just when things seemed to be settling down again, a decision to allow people to buy and sell costumes, too, for a great deal of in-game silver, came down the pipeline.
In a Trion-worthy move (Archeage, anyone?), Kakao blamed the move on the developer Pearl Abyss, but players immediately pointed out that this seemed shallow.
In an effort to turn things around, the company did a partial backpedal. Kakao committed to exerting control over how much people could sell, limiting each player’s total purchases to just five per week and limiting how much they sold for on the auction house. So far, this is exactly what’s happened, but player trust is hard to win and even harder to win back once lost.
The Division Divides Us
The Division turning into a massive flop sort of surprised all of us. After all, just how bad could anything to do with Tom Clancy be? Unfortunately, it’s this type of thinking that caused a lot of heartache when Star Trek Online launched. Fans thought, “surely a Star Trek game will be good.” In reality, the end result was a hastily thrown-together game with poor mechanics and a wealth of frustration that led to it going free-to-play within months.
So what exactly happened to The Division? The same thing that’s happened to countless games under the developer, Ubisoft, in the past. Bugs. Bugs. More bugs. Badly laid-out missions. With a side of bugs.
The Division started off great. Excellent reception online, sure, there was some complaining about bugs, but that’s to be expected with any modern launch (that argument is for another time). Where things went downhill fast was with the inclusion of the first real DLC, a mission called “The Incursion.” This mission turned out to be little more than a one-room challenge where players faced wave after wave of enemies that were not only difficult, but if they wiped you, you had to start the entire mission off from scratch.
Add to this the never-ending list of exploits. Exploits that let you get through missions without fighting, and bugs that made toon just disappear from the game outright. Though Ubisoft attempted to release hotfixes, players simply found more exploits and bugs to abuse instead. And therein we have the problem with a badly coded game in the first place.
Today, the game reviews on Steam are “mostly negative” and a quick browse through the comments will show that Ubisoft still hasn’t managed to fix the inherent issues with the code.
No Man’s Sky (Literally)
Saving the best and possibly most disastrous flop for last--but certainly not least. No Man’s Sky was supposed to save us all from the depths of boredom and take us where no game had ever taken us before. We would explore, discover, name things after butts...possibly terraform of a few phallic objects, and (hopefully) one day make it to the center or find another human.
The hype was real...incredibly real, and incredibly intense. OVER-intense, if you will. To the point where some people became just flat-out sick of hearing about it. The developer made a -lot- of claims, and players themselves went from telling truths to sharing outright rumors, exacerbating the issue.
When games get over-hyped like this, the actual delivery tends to become very disappointing simply because nothing could possibly live up to the actual hype itself. The “idea” of No Man’s Sky being spread was simply not technologically possible yet, so many of us waited with baited breath to see what was going to happen and if it would flop.
And oh, boy, did it come true.
Many of us were expecting something akin to an exploration game rich with content. Unfortunately, what we got is more like a stepped-up version of Minecraft with pretty graphics and an endless array of procedurally-generated pixels.
Add to this that the game had *problems* and the launch itself was nearly a disaster and people felt pretty let down.
In fact, several platforms even began issuing refunds recently to those who felt that they had fallen victim to false advertising. In a surprising move, Steam apparently refunded the incredibly expensive game for a long list of customers.
But was No Man’s Sky really that bad? Well, it depends on who you ask, and what your idea of bad is. The truth is that, as a casual game, it’s really not that bad. It’s a fun way to take a break when you don’t want to deal with other people, and adventuring through the first ~20 hours or so is kind of interesting. But worth $60 USD? Probably not.
At the end of the day, it was the hype itself that ruined No Man’s Sky. Developers should have held the reins a bit tighter and made fewer promises, but to some degree, the player hype was a bit out of control.