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How does the SimCity fiasco compare to gaming's worst disaster launches?

It's been a terrible week for EA, but it could be worse...

This should have been a week of celebration for EA and Maxis. Its new reboot of SimCity is by all accounts a fantastic game, one that promises to gorge on players' hours much like the original did.

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This should have been a week where all involved in the game's development and marketing could relax, put their feet up, and pat each other's backs on a job well done.

But instead EA is harbouring the unenviable reputation for hosting one of the worst game launches in history as its SimCity servers buckle under the weight of demand from its users. A groundswell of criticism has spread internationally as the game repeatedly refused numerous customers access. Some reported that, once into the game and making progress, their work was deleted due to server outage.

As the week went on EA's suffering showed no respite, with staff memos leaking, then Amazon pulling the game from listings, then the publisher halting marketing plans, then a third public apology packaged with the offer of a free Origin game to those affected.

It has been a spectacular, depressing disaster launch. But was it the worst ever? CVG looks through the history books and picks out the biggest disaster launches ever. Shield your eyes.


Diablo III: Error 37

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In a situation similar to SimCity's, Diablo 3 was a much-anticipated game that, naturally, generated a stupendous volume of players ready to go online on launch day. Those players all then poured into Blizzard's servers seconds after the gate opened, causing the servers to immediately overload and block out thousands of players with the now infamous "Error 37" message.

Connection problems were still being reported a full month after the game's launch.

One of the main reasons for the outrage was that Diablo III's single-player mode, despite not offering any online functionality, had to remain connected at all times. As a result, many who didn't even want to play online were still forced out of the single-player mode. It made discs seem futuristic.

This is fake, but it doesn't make it any less fantastic:

(NSFW / loud profanity)

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World Of Warcraft: Azewrong moarlike!

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When it first launched, Blizzard had no clue that World Of Warcraft would become the historic success that it went on to become. Despite enough warning signs about server demand during the frenzied hype, Blizzard did not expected that the demand would place such an enormous burden on its servers. The company, like EA has with SimCity, grossly underestimated how many people would buy the title on day one.

As shops started selling out of copies of World Of Warcraft, Blizzard's servers continued taking a hammering, with server queues stretching past thousands of players waiting for free slots. Those who did manage to get online were plagued with disconnects, and due to severe latency issues, some players were stuck watching their character perform the same looting animation for half an hour.

Blizzard tried to make amends by offering free game time credit for those who had been affected, but the server issues continued for a full month or so after launch.


Half-Life 2: Blowing off Steam

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We look back on the spellbinding Half-Life 2 with a holy reverence but those who were there on day-one may not speak of it so saintly.

Valve's Half-Life 2 was released on the same day as the new digital game distribution service, Steam. Yes, we all adore Steam in the modern age as the platform smoothly hosts thousands of PC games at reasonable prices, but that's after nine years of learning hard lessons. On the first days when it launched, Steam was a mess.

Again, like with SimCity and Diablo 3, the problem was popularity. Countless gamers desperate to play Half-Life 2 were but not able to do so because, even though it was a single-player game, Valve wanted players to authenticate it online. Sound familiar?

Let's not forget, back in 2004 the servers and connections were also far less stable and dial-up was still a legitimate option for internet users. Valve's Erik Johnson admitted in a 2011 interview "we were stupid back then".

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