These titles prove that even the underdog has a shot at making gaming history.
Ever since the start of gaming, there have been titles that have both exceeded and underperformed with audiences. Nowadays, it's relatively easy for developers to fix under-performing games. However, back in the 1990s and early 2000s, there was no easy way to quickly patch or fix bugs - other than releasing an entirely new version of the game via CD-ROM. Nowadays, developers have a much easier time patching broken games, allowing them to appeal to their fan base much more quickly and easily than before. Unfortunately, this creates a bit of a double-edged sword for developers and gamers alike - as games get bigger and deadlines grow closer, developers are more inclined to release a broken game only to patch it later.
Whatever your take on releasing massive game-fixes or patches after release might be, most gamers can at least agree that allowing these changes to be made has benefited the gaming community as a whole. In fact, some of the games that have been fixed this way have made a huge impact on video game history.
Some games don't even require a massive bug fix; their fan bases just grow naturally after the initial turmoil of their release. With the gaming world more connected than ever in today's digital era, many games are under-performing due to market over-saturation. With hundreds of titles coming out every day, the video game industry is filled to the brim with content. Sometimes, a game can get lost in the sea of other titles, only to be fished out once a YouTube reviewer, Twitch streamer, or meme creator stumbles upon it. After that, the game is history, as thousands of players rush to experience it.
Whatever the cause for the phenomena of relatively unknown or generally disliked titles making waves in the gaming community, one thing is for certain - in the gaming world, hits are spontaneous. No one knows what the next under-rated hit or patch-updated masterpiece is going to be - and that's the beauty of it. In the list below, the top three cases of this phenomena will be covered and ranked. Maybe history will one day repeat itself, and some other game will follow in the footsteps of these three.
3. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Developed by Square Enix and released on August 27, 2013, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a massively-multiplayer online role-playing game, or MMORPG, that takes place in the mythical world of Eorzea. This might not sound too revolutionary to most, but there is a twist - Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a re-release of its commercially-panned predecessor, Final Fantasy XIV. Final Fantasy XIV was released on September 30, 2010, selling over 603 thousand copies worldwide. This success was short-lived, however, as many people disliked the game's first mission and lack of intuitive features.
The game was universally panned by nearly all of the game reviewing websites of the time, with Metacritic giving it a lacklustre 49/100 ranking. Many described the in-game world of Eorzea as beautiful, but disliked the missions so much that they didn't wish to explore it much further than the game's first campaign.
Square Enix noticed the lacklustre reception of their game and went straight to work. They began to spearhead a new project, one that they mysteriously began calling "Version 2.0." Heading this project was none other than Naoki Yoshida, who is well-known for his role as chief planner of Dragon Quest X. They took all of the criticisms of the first game to improve its successor, completely overhauling the gameplay, story, and interface in the process.
The result was a massive success, which boosted subscriptions and in-game purchases, causing Square Enix's 2014 fiscal year to exceed expectations. After a lack of success from 2010-2013, 2014 became one of Square Enix's best financial years yet, a victory that they attribute to the overhaul of Final Fantasy XIV and its transition to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
2. Demon's Souls
Everyone is familiar with Dark Souls, the second instalment in the Souls series. The game made huge waves over the years, selling over two million copies in 2013 and spawning numerous sequels. However, many do not know of the sordid history of its predecessor, Demon's Souls.
Released February 5, 2009, in Japan, Demon's Souls is an action role-playing game that takes place in the world of Boletaria. Throughout the game's story, the player has to defeat a nefarious force called the Old One, using forbidden skills called the Soul Arts to restore the land. The game's early development was plagued by issues with the game's vision and story. Many developers on the project were worried that the game's difficulty would turn players away, as the game was extremely difficult to master. Some were even worried about Sony executives interfering, forcing the developers to lower the difficulty on certain enemies or areas. These conflicting worries were what Hidetaka Miyazaki was met with when he spearheaded the team. Despite the game's lack of vision and developer concerns, Miyazaki was able to turn the project into the cult classic it is today.
But, the Demon's Souls team were not in the clear yet, as many players that experienced the game's demo were unsatisfied, with many reviewers writing it off before the full game even came out. Many Japanese gamers were put off by the game's difficulty, making its sales in Japan slump. However, in June of 2009, that changed, as Demon's Souls was released in the West. Many North American players enjoyed the storyline and increased difficulty, which made North American sales soar to heights never before known of. Despite under-performance in the Japanese market, the game quickly took off in the West, solidifying the Souls series in video game history.
1. No Man's Sky
Published on August 9, 2016, by Hello Games, No Man's Sky was one of the most anticipated titles for Microsoft Windows and the PlayStation 4. Pre-orders for No Man's Sky soared, as many of the game's developers spoke out publicly about the game's plethora of features. The game hinged itself on four major aspects - exploration, survival, combat, and trading. Initially, developers advertised that a player could travel to an infinite number of planets with an infinite number of randomly-generated possibilities. Developers also advertised that players could visit one another's planets, exploring the galaxy together.
When the game came out, however, it was a different story. It was an unfinished, buggy mess, filled with broken promises and a lot of confused players. Players couldn't find their friends in the galaxy; many were realising that the "infinite possibilities" weren't so infinite, and the game looked like it was in a pre-alpha state despite being released at the full price of $50-$60. Many players were mad, and for a time, 2016 became the year for players to meme on No Man's Sky.
With the memes and joke videos rolling in at high-speed, the developers vanished, leaving players confused, angry, and bitter. Many thought that the developers had just run off with the money they made from pre-orders and box copies, leaving fans with the unfinished mess of a game. It would have made sense for the time, as many Patreon and GoFundMe game developers had done the same with their projects after exceeding backer goals. Games like Mighty No. 9 were examples of typical game developer scenarios, so players just accepted defeat and moved on, trying to forget the shattered legacy of No Man's Sky.
But Hello Games had a different ending to the story. In 2017, they began releasing massive game updates, silently adding them to the game without commenting much on Steam or social media. Among these updates are "Path Finder" and "Atlas Rises," which added features that changed the game's feel to what the developers intended when the game first released in 2016. Hello Games is still not done - they've continually been adding updates to the game, to the point that audiences flipped their perspective on the game from indie flop to cult classic. To this day, No Man's Sky is continuing to grow - in both its world and its player base.
With the game industry growing at an impressive rate, there will most likely be other titles joining these three over the years. With modern patching and shout-outs by social media and YouTube influencers, even the biggest underdog in video gaming history can become a success story. What might begin as a meme, might become the next blockbuster hit - the fun of it is trying to predict which game will rise from the ashes.
Images via Hello Games, Bandai-Namco, and Square Enix