For the most part, the phrase “gamers rise up” is the stuff of ironic memes. Every now and then, though, gamers really do rise up against game developers. This is usually due to anything from bizarre behind-the-scenes decisions to terrible game design.
Such controversies are especially dangerous because bad word-of-mouth can be the kiss of death for a new game. Wondering which games generated the biggest controversies of 2019? This complete guide has you covered.
Pokémon: Sword & Shield
As a franchise, Pokémon should really be controversy-free. After all, every Pokémon product is a license to print money. Nonetheless, Pokémon: Sword and Pokémon: Shield managed to drive many of their players crazy.
The controversy wasn’t about what was in the games, though. Instead, it was about what wasn’t in the games. Players soon discovered these games are missing the National Pokédex. Many iconic Pokémon (such as Mewtwo and Bulbasaur) are missing from the game, and without the Pokédex, there is no way to bring them in.
That was a big turn-off for franchise loyalists. Throw in the fact the rushed game seemed to reuse a lot of material and this surefire hit became an undeniable controversy.
What’s the quickest way to anger your players? Simple: release a game that is clearly incomplete.
That’s what happened when Bioware launched the ill-fated Anthem. Instead of a complete game, this rushed game would receive content updates down the line.
In theory, this approach works well to keep gamers engaged beyond the launch of the game. But gamers quickly discovered that the base game is disappointing and stopped playing, even as Bioware fumbled their roadmap for future content.
By the time Bioware seemingly got its act together, it was too late to really salvage this game.
Games aren’t always controversial. Sometimes, the controversy comes later with new changes. But with Fallout 76, Bethesda seemingly asked, “Why not both?”
When Fallout 76 launched, players were quite disappointed. It was a buggy and unsatisfying experience that served as a reminder of how unplayable Bethesda products can be without player-made mods.
Instead of fixing the problem, Bethesda added a paid subscription service called “Fallout 1st.” This not only led to player infighting between subscribers and non-subscribers, but the special Fallout 1st features were just as broken and unplayable as everything else.
Is it too late to just drop a nuke on the entire game?
Hideo Kojima is one of the most divisive figures in gaming. As the father of classic games such as Metal Gear Solid, Kojima commands a ton of loyalty and respect. But his big passion is for experimental gameplay, and some of those experiments go better than others.
This all culminated in the game Death Stranding. Critics and users seemed divided over whether this game is a masterpiece or just a waste of time. Despite that divide, the game received nine different nominations for The Game Awards and won in four categories.
To make things worse, Kojima is good friends with Geoff Keighley, the organizer of The Game Awards. To outside observers, it looked like the fix was in for Kojima’s controversial labor of love.
Crash Team Racing
The most controversial word in video games is “microtransactions.” Many players are understandably frustrated at the notion of paying again and again for a game they already plunked down money for. Unfortunately, the developers behind Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled did not get this memo!
Previously, the developers of this fun kart racer offered their reassurances that the game would have no microtransactions. But the lure of profit was too strong, and they added a “Wumpa Coin” store to try to get even more of your money.
This isn’t the worst controversy on this list. But realizing the developers didn’t hesitate to openly lie to their players is really depressing.
Players tend to think of video game glitches as rare events. And if something only goes wrong every now and then, it’s not that big of a deal… right?
WWE 2K20 is like a thought experiment gone wrong. What will players do when your entire game is one big glitch? The short answer is “mercilessly make fun of it.”
Numerous glitches affect graphics, gameplay, and everything in-between. Your wrestlers turn into Lovecraftian horrors and phase into the ring like the T-1000 walking through bars in pursuit of John Connor.
After a few minutes of this game, you’ll be ready to piledrive your console into the ground!
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
The very existence of gaming “exclusives” is controversial. Sure, some players love to receive special bonuses, but others feel left out that some people literally got more for their money.
That’s exactly what went down with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Shortly before the game came out, developers announced that the Survival game mode would be exclusive to PlayStation 4 players for a period of time.
While Xbox and PC players would get the mode a year later, they would have to spend that year simmering in jealousy of PS4 players. All in all, this was a great way to drive loyal gamers away!
Overwatch is a beloved video game enjoyed all around the world. Unfortunately, the decisions made by developer Blizzard helped to make it one of 2019’s most controversial games.
It all started with Hearthstone, another Blizzard game. When pro-Hearthstone player Blitzchung announced his support for Hong Kong, Blizzard responded by yanking his recent prize money and firing the streamers that broadcast his “liberate Hong Kong” message.
In response, angry fans transformed Overwatch character Mei into a Hong Kong freedom fighter icon. People were still protesting when Blizzcon 2019 rolled around. There, Blizzard announced Overwatch 2… which is going to simply be a PVE version of Overwatch.
Just as one controversy died down, Blizzard created another. It seems like PVE would be better suited as DLC, but it will instead be an expensive and entirely new game.
By year’s end, Blizzard had transformed one of their surefire cash cow properties into a source of controversy and mockery.