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8 biggest gaming flops

8 biggest gaming flops

8 biggest gaming flops
Danielle de Wolfe
10 October 2013

The gaming industry appears to be on something of a high at present - a "tie around its head, champaign in hand, swinging from the chandelier" high.

The PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo 2DS are filling up Christmas wishlists faster than we can plug in a USB stick while Grand Theft Auto V breaks records, collects cash and generally behaves like one of its characters incarnate.

But this is just a picture of life at the top. Only a small fraction of titles contribute to the big money made by the gaming industry, while those who fail to hit the mark dream of what could have been.

In order to remind ourselves of the industry's fickle nature, we've collected together some of the biggest gaming flops of all time. Some are bad games, others are good games that were unlucky, but all of them had a hand in damaging reputations, closing studios or ending genres.


8. Ōkami

Why did it flop? Go figure

Ōkami was a gorgeous, creative, exemplary piece of gaming design from Clover Studio. Upon its release in 2006 it began collecting awards for fun and heaped up high-percentage reviews as a matter of course. And yet...

By 2009, only 600,000 copies of the game had sold worldwide, causing it to gain the unfortunate Guinness World Record for "least commercially successful winner of a game of the year award". As key designers left Clover in the months after its launch, the studio was closed down. A Wii port and Nintendo DS sequel eventually furthered its forgotten legacy.


7. APB: All Points Bulletin

Why did it flop? A lengthy review embargo (and ultimately, bankruptcy)

The massively multiplayer online game APB aimed to be GTA online. Lofty claims, but given that lead designer David Jones created GTA, expectations were high.

To the frustrations of the gaming media, an embargo prevented reviews for APB being published until a week after its launch. This dented early sales, and studio Realtime Worlds weren't able to recoup the £63 million spent making the game. Three months after APB hit the shelves, the studio entered administration and the servers were switched off, killing the game.


6. Def Jam Rapstar

Why did it flop? Legal whoopsie

A rap karaoke game not unlike Sing Star? What could possibly go wrong!

Unfortunately for 4mm Games and Terminal Reality, the studios behind Def Jam Rapstar, the legal complexities of music ownership landed them in deep water. EMI sued the studios for $8.1 million, claiming the title hadn't acquired the correct rights for 54 songs. As 4mm began running out of cash they were forced to close down the game's community site, making several major features of the game redundant.


5. Daikatana

Why did it flop? Made ridiculous claims it failed to fulfil

If John Romero makes a game, it's going to be a good game. Lord of id Software, designer of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake, his reputation was rightly exploited by Daikatana's advertising: an early poster boldly stated "John Romero's about to make you his bitch... Suck it down".

Unfortunately, the only thing that did any sucking was Daikatana. A switch of game engines, almost the entire development team resigning and other delays resulted in the final release looking aged and shoddy compared to the likes of Quake III and Unreal Tournament. Romero's gold-plated reputation was tarnished forever.


4. Duke Nukem Forever

Why did it flop? It took too long

Duke Nukem 3D was an exceptionally fun, totally silly game. When news broke in 1996 that it was to receive a sequel, gamers everywhere pencilled it into their wish lists.

After 15 years, several graphics engines, countless rebuilds and two development studios, Duke Nukem Forever crawled into shops. And it was grotesque. The loading times were massive, the controls unwieldy and the jokes pitiful.

The game also did significant damage to its initial developer 3D Realms, whose legal battles with publisher Take-Two and eventual producers Gearbox only tarnished the game's reputation further.


3. Grim Fandango

Why did it flop? Wrong place, wrong time

Anyone who has had the pleasure of playing LucasArts' Grim Fandango will rightly defend this title as anything but a flop. There's just one issue - only half a million can take up the argument.

Grim Fandango was a wet finger held in the air of gaming. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing in any direction other than that of adventure games: 1998 also saw the release of Metal Gear Solid, Half-Life and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Despite the title collecting multiple awards, less than 100,000 copies were sold in the USA by 2003. The title sounded the death knell of the adventure game genre. LucasArts proceeded to release Escape from Monkey Island in 2000, but conceded that they had no plans to release another adventure game thereafter.


2. Pac-Man

Why did it flop? Ruined a classic, thus making gamers lose trust in games

Despite being the best selling game of the Atari 2600, the console port of the gaming icon was nothing short of a disaster.

Atari tasked Tod Frye with the arduous mission of converting the arcade game to run on the vastly different hardware of the 2600. Such were its limitations that Frye had to square off the rounded edges of walls and generally ruin the aesthetic design, while the mazes themselves had to be simplified.

Atari then employed baffling logic, ordering 12 million copies of the game despite only 10 million households owning a 2600 console. Faith was placed in the reputation of the arcade game winning out, as all existing owners would surely buy it and attract a new wave of customers.

A $1.5 million marketing campaign helped ensure that seven million copies were gobbled up on launch. However, the game was slated by all quarters on launch: flickering visuals and awful audio killed the magic of the arcade classic. While Pac-Man succeeded in selling more Atari 2600 consoles and expanding the number of video game retail outlets, it was a critical title in wounding the reputation of video games in the early 1980s, eventually resulting in the video game crash of 1983.


1. E.T.

Why did it flop? So bad it helped kill Atari

Our tragedy begins in 1982, North America. A dozen consoles converged, fighting to claim the hearts and minds (and wallets) of a nation of gamers. Each led a host of 3rd party developers. The stage was set for the downfall of an industry - all that was needed was a villain.

Many would hang that noose around the neck of E.T. and its designer Howard Scott Warshaw: widely hailed as one of the worst games ever made, E.T. thrust players into a jagged world of greens and greys, guiding everyone's favourite extra terrestrial to find pieces from which to construct his intergalactic telephone.

But the blame for this awful game lies with another: Atari. Negotiations with Universal Pictures to secure the video game rights to Spielberg's masterpiece were drawn out. In July 1982, Atari handed over close to $25 million for the rights. Warshaw was given five and a half weeks to create a title in time to fill the nation's Christmas stockings.

The rest is history. Atari had ordered 5 million copies of the game, only 1.5 million were sold and many of those returned by disgruntled customers. Truck-loads of cartridges were sent to a landfill in New Mexico, a macabre memorial to the eventual demise of Atari. The game contributed to its $536 million debt and the subsequent North American video game crash. Atari was divided and sold in 1984.

(Images: Gamespress)