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World of Warcraft Column: The Worst MMORPG Launches

By William Murphy on January 04, 2011

In a week’s time, SOE will be launching the anticipated (and oft argued over) DC Universe Online. No stranger to MMO launches, SOE will hopefully be able to pull off a successfully smooth opening day. But despite a wealth of experience, sometimes things just don’t go as planned in the first days of a fledgling MMO. In the brand new year spirit of looking back to see where we are when moving forward, let’s take a look at five of the worst MMORPG launches in recent memory. Bear in mind, these are based on the author’s (my own) personal experiences since I began this hobby, and when I write the following synopses I’m not picking on the mentioned games… I’m just trying to call it like I see it. All said, let’s list us a list, shall we? Be sure to add your own thoughts below, as always.

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5.) Star Wars Galaxies

What happens when you’re about to launch an MMORPG based on one of the world’s most beloved intellectual properties? Well, you pretty much get the attention of the entire gaming world. And even though MMOs were still working their way toward wide-spread gaming acceptance, Star Wars Galaxies had hundreds of thousands of eager players lining up on launch day to try out SOE and Raph Koster’s idea of a virtual Star Wars galaxy that they could live in. The problem is that the game didn’t actually launch on the day it was supposed to… many issues kept the servers from going live until the day after. I can only assume there were quite a few people who stayed home from work “sick” that were displeased that day.

4.) Aion

Aion had a huge slew of expectations behind it. The next major MMORPG release from NCsoft after Tabula Rasa, heralded as a return to form for the company, released to wide acclaim in the East. Gameplay issues aside (until recently the title was heavily criticized for being too geared towards the Eastern audience), the main problem with the game at launch was that players just couldn’t log into it. Perhaps not expecting so many people anxious to try a game that promised the power of flight to be a main mechanic, the servers experienced massive queues for days on end. It was not pretty to be on their forums, or ours, or read any of the blogs during that release.

3.) Age of Conan

The first of two games on this list made by Funcom, Age of Conan didn’t really suffer from any server issues like Aion or SWG. Rather the game itself was woefully underdeveloped at launch, and came with a huge level of hype in its wake. A combination that never really bodes well. Though the game has bounced back under the direction of Craig Morrison, it’s likely it never will fully bounce back from its obviously early launch and achieve the kind of success it had once been pegged for. Luckily Mr. Morrison is no stranger to turning rough launches around, as #2 will clearly illustrate.

2.) Anarchy Online

Anarchy Online is nowadays known as a cult-classic MMORPG. It has oodles of fans from both the past and present that still love and play the pioneering game today. But who knew that the game would ever get beyond its absolutely horrific early days of release? When it comes to server and client stability issues, few can take the honor of most aggravating away from Anarchy Online. It definitely made up for its early issues with plenty of expansions and fun had by all its players for years, but man were those early days rough.

1.) World of Warcraft

However, as far as player-aggravation goes, Blizzard’s behemoth will probably own the title of most hair-pulling for a while. No one, not even Blizzard, expected WoW to become the juggernaut it has during its monumental six-year run. When it launched the fact that the developer was caught off guard by the response to its first MMO release was painfully obvious. Servers were down for days at a time, players couldn’t loot, server-side lag was abundant and no matter how many new shards the studio launched, they filled to peak population incredibly quickly. The early days of WoW were hampered by its own success. So much so that the developer began handing out free days in accordance with how many days the servers were inaccessible. In the end, let’s just hope that everyone has learned from all five of these games’ mistakes. I shudder to think about what Blizzard’s next MMO launch will be like.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.

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