To build a digital world from pipe dreams, one must first prepare to sacrifice two things: a loyal heart, and a whole lot of money. As for the pay-off, well, that’s another story, and one that doesn’t always end on a high note, believe it or not. The point is, video games, honestly, don’t always turn up trumps when hitting the market, with many studios even suffering financially after their vision flops out in the wild. And that’s a heartbreaking thing, truly.
It doesn’t matter if the script is perfect, or if the voice cast entwines with Hollywood royalty, because the fact is, success is never a sure-fire deal. Video games flop, and that’s a natural thing in the industry that happens to even the biggest devs on the podium. But with that said, we do have to acknowledge five of the biggest flops to ever graze the system. These five, in specific, never financially recovered from their launch sales at all, despite the hype and marketing techniques that followed. But, with a smidgen of hope and a whole lot of luck, here’s hoping they’ll find a second wind someday. If only to break even.
5. Brutal Legend
Despite having a stellar cast of heavy metal icons to back Jack Black’s bombastic tale, Brutal Legend did, sadly, fall short when it came to overall launch sales. One of the biggest reasons behind the commercial failure of the game, of course, was the fact that it was released around the same time as Uncharted 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and Batman: Arkham Asylum, meaning interest was already plotted elsewhere before launch day even arrived. And from there, the incredibly ambitious real-time strategy game only continued to fold under pressure, with many factors failing to meet player expectations.
To put it out there, Brutal Legend was not a bad game. To be honest, it was more of a wrong time, wrong place sort of scenario that ultimately sank the ship. The soundtrack was on a completely new level, the humour was on-point, the gameplay was smooth and satisfying, and the overall idea was well-rounded and built to last. But unfortunately, luck was not on Double Fine’s side after its debut. A cult classic in 2021 or not, financially, Brutal Legend took a major blow to the head, and, to be honest, the leftover bruise never quite healed over.
4. Conker’s Bad Fur Day
After spending years crafting happy-go-lucky little platformers for younger audiences, Rare needed to switch up the algorithm if they ever planned to tap into the adult market. From that, Conker’s Bad Fur Day was born, with perhaps one of the most unorthodox adventures ever produced for a video game. With opera-singing faeces and hungover critters filling out the ensemble, it was practically a sure-fire deal for the game to attract an older fan base. Or, at least that’s what Rare had originally hoped for, of course.
Although having oceans of wacky content to gawp over, the fact was — not everybody wanted to tuck into the red squirrel’s ludicrous journey. And, the sad truth is, the game only managed to sell just shy of 55,000 copies after release, meaning the overall marketing strategy was a complete commercial failure right off the bat. Of course, Microsoft did go on to remaster the Live & Reloaded entry for Xbox in 2005, but, like before, it never so much as saw the brunt of the charts.
3. Cyberpunk 2077
Ah yes, Cyberpunk 2077. It only feels like yesterday that we were cashing in our Xbox One copies of the game out of sheer disappointment. And yet, CD Projekt has since resurrected the dying light and come up trumps with a finalized edition that actually plays on all fronts. But that 2020 launch? Wow. Now that was something else, and, something the Polish developer will never live down so long as they hold the rights to the sci-fi IP.
Of course, the nail in the coffin that sealed Cyberpunk’s fate was the overall hype that CD Projekt poured into it. Even after several years, multiple delays and endless celebrity cameos — the devs still couldn’t face the fact that, behind the smoke and mirrors, an absolute car crash idled on paper stilts. But even still, they released it into the wild, glued with all its flaws and bugs — and, as expected, it failed miserably, causing millions of people to file for refunds and, of course, putting CD Projekt out of pocket for the foreseeable future.
It seems awfully strange, knowing Psychonauts 2 is perhaps one of the most anticipated games of 2021, when the original, oddly enough, was a total disaster from the get-go. And yet, we can’t help but love a redemption story. Psychonauts, for what it’s worth, isn’t the shipwreck one might come to expect when reading through the mounds of hit-and-miss reviews from its launch year. It is, however, one of the unluckiest games on the planet, with most of its misfortunate landing on third-party shoulders.
After Microsoft decided to pull the plug on the game a year before its scheduled release, Double Fine essentially outsourced to alternative publishers and, as a result, ended up with Majesco tying the knot and carrying the torch. However, in light of the newfound partnership, Majesco was only able to ship 100,000 copies, meaning Double Fine were quickly put out of pocket. And, to add salt to the wound, they had already poured $11.5 million into its four-year development phase. So, not quite the storybook ending they had originally hoped for.
1. Duke Nukem Forever
After twelve years in development, you can only begin to imagine the absolute heartbreak 3D Realms would’ve felt after the sales practically drove themselves into the core of the earth. But then, many would say that the team were already clutching a double-edged sword, with Duke Nukem already failing commercially decades before the 2011 Forever chapter rolled out. Even still, Duke Nukem Forever, despite being on and off the board for over a decade, did finally see the light of day. And, to put it bluntly — it was an absolute mess.
While you could argue that the earlier Duke Nukem games were somewhat genuine, there really is no justifying the car crash that was 3D Realms’ Forever reboot. It was broken, plain and simple. Outdated, shoddy, and downright unplayable. And that, weirdly enough, was the result of twelve years under the hammer. So, either the hammer was made of plastic, or the nail was pretty much indestructible. Whatever the case, Duke Nukem Forever flopped — and it flopped hard.