Buying a game at launch is a huge risk. Even the most trustworthy franchises and developers are prone to stumble out of the gate with their latest game. It’s a huge reason why there’s a push within the video game community to convince players not to preorder a game or buy it at launch, as doing so could encourage developers to be more careless about the quality of their game at release.
Not every game has a disastrous release. In fact, many games release in an incredibly polished state with few further updates required. However, buying those polished releases can still bring with it harsh realities. Even if the player is ultimately satisfied with their purchase, it can be tough not to see some of the benefits of waiting just a little bit longer.
10 It’s Incomplete
Players who pay full price for a game deserve a complete experience, but that isn’t always the case. Some major games release with missing content and story details that should be expected from a game at launch. Street Fighter V, for example, didn’t have an Arcade mode that has been standard in fighting games for decades, and its cinematic story mode wasn’t added until months later.
Thankfully, Street Fighter V rebounded to become a fantastic fighting game, but it’s easy to see how much its launch state has not only lingered in the minds of Street Fighter fans seven years later, but also influenced Capcom leading up to the launch of Street Fighter 6.
9 DLC Is On The Way
One of the harsh realities of modern gaming is that just about every game gets DLC. Few games are content complete at launch. Players who purchase a game early will be paying more money in the long run than players who waited for the “Game of the Year Edition” or a similar release.
Because many of these DLCs are story-based, playing a game at launch means it takes years before players fully understand a game’s narrative. This can be an especially bitter pill to swallow when that DLC gets announced before the main game even releases, as was the case with Final Fantasy XV, or when that DLC is practically ready to go and could’ve been included in the original release like the infamous on-disc DLC from Street Fighter X Tekken.
8 Being Misled By Pre-Release Hype
Leading up to a release, players get attached to screenshots, trailers, developer interviews, and anything and everything pertaining to that game. Players only have that information to go on, so they piece together what they believe that game will be like. However, the end product is often different.
Most of the time, a game evolves throughout development, typically for the better. Other times, players are misled if not directly lied to. This could be a main character swap like the often debated one in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. It could also be a feature that was far more limited than initially hyped up to be, such as the role of Nemesis in the Resident Evil 3 remake.
7 Monetization Is At Their Most Aggressive
Few things can get a game review-bombed as quickly as predatory monetization. It’s not enough to profit off the sale of a game at full price; players must also be nickeled and dimed while the player base is at its highest.
Monetization is usually at its worst right when a game is released. Players who played Star Wars: Battlefront II had to play an absurd amount of time to unlock content, and no amount of “sense of pride and accomplishment” makes that worth it. When the player base decreases enough, or when enough players speak out, developers will dial monetization back in hopes of bringing in players who were previously turned off.
6 Bugs And Glitches
A release date isn’t just when a game releases; it’s also a deadline. Many developers don’t have the luxury of delaying a release numerous times. Ready or not, here it comes in all its buggy and glitchy glory.
The latest victim of a disastrous release is Redfall, which has been plagued with technical issues from its troubled development. Pokémon Scarlet & Violet also found themselves flooded with controversy for its release state. Given Pokémon‘s strict release schedule, given it has to coincide with the trading card game, it’s no surprise that recent Pokémon releases have become increasingly controversial. Rushing a game out the door has been a frequent recipe for disaster, and some games and developers never fully recover.
5 Online Servers Are A Mess
One of the worst experiences of buying a game at launch is not being able to play. It’s still all too common for a game to have server issues at launch. Connection problems, lag, surprise maintenance, and the inability to find a room are some of the many causes of frustration among players playing an online game at launch.
A game predominantly played online can’t have server issues on day one. That’s one of the biggest reasons why games have betas. To test servers in anticipation of the launch. For games like Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Overwatch 2, those first impressions remain a stigma that is difficult to shake.
4 Mechanics Need Refining
Gameplay can make or break a game. Some gameplay ideas may sound great on paper during development, but don’t resonate with players at launch. Further quality-of-life updates are necessary to perfect those mechanics.
Games often undergo numerous revisions and tweaks after release to create the most enjoyable experience possible. In Fallout 76, quality-of-life updates such as increased Stash space, human NPCs, and improved inventory management were necessary due to frequent player complaints. A player who enjoyed Fallout 76 at launch may still regret not picking up the game later because of the many improvements Bethesda made throughout the years after Fallout 76’s launch.
3 Getting Lost
Entering the unknown can be an amazing experience. Not knowing what’s around every corner, how to solve a puzzle, or defeat a boss. The sense of discovery can make an adventure engaging and rewarding.
Not every player likes getting lost, and that’s perfectly normal. At launch, there isn’t much information players have access to. Some players can find themselves struggling to play The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom because of frequent roadblocks. For achievement and trophy hunters, this may also mean needing a second playthrough for 100% because of a previously unknown missable collectible.
2 Rushing To Avoid Spoilers
The internet loves to spoil. It can be frustrating to get spoiled in the most unexpected places. Players who don’t play a game or watch a movie right away may feel they’re being punished or isolated.
The fear of being spoiled and the need to participate in discourse can create a sense of urgency. Rushing through a game’s main story may mean skipping over much of what makes that game special. Plenty of Final Fantasy fans will rush through Final Fantasy XVI‘s story, and those fans may find themselves not as attached to FFXVI‘s universe or its characters because of it.
1 The Game Falls Short Of Expectations
Every player’s worst fear when picking up a game at launch is that they don’t like it. For one reason or another, it doesn’t live up to the hype and expectations leading up to release, or it’s just not good.
A game could be polished, but still have a disappointing story, like Kingdom Hearts III, which was faced with the monumental task of wrapping up the extensive Xehanot Saga. On the other hand, a game could have a fascinating story premise, but is held back by game design, such as The Order: 1886, which had a short runtime that gave players a discouraging amount of agency. Critic and user reviews can be deceiving as a player doesn’t truly know if they’ll like a game until they play it themselves, which can lead to a regrettable purchase.
NEXT: 10 Most Polarizing Game Launches Of All Time