Launch-day issues are common enough when a game, or an expansion to a game, go live. In 2021, most gamers understand that they’re an inevitable fact of life. When they’re compounded with other errors, however, they can turn even the most understanding crowd into an angry mob.
Path of Exile‘s Ultimatum expansion was supposed to go live on Friday. It did, but the login queue for the servers “was running incredibly slowly,” as Grinding Gear Games’ Chris Wilson said in a post on Reddit. This was due to “human error,” and a process not running that was supposed to, “catastrophically ruining our launch day” and preventing players from logging in for several hours.
That would have been bad enough, but GGG was, for the first time, also running a promotion to pay popular streamers to play the game. When it became clear that they wouldn’t be able to log in and play during the proscribed time — which would have been equivalent to “literally setting a big pile of money on fire” — Wilson made the snap decision to let them bypass the queue so they could stream the game and give players something to watch while they were waiting.
The strategy backfired, instead causing the rank-and-file players to feel like others were getting preferential treatment. “We tell people that Path of Exile league starts are a fair playing field for everyone, and we need to actually make sure that is the reality,” said Wilson.
Grinding Gear Games has adopted measures to ensure that the technical hiccups that plagued Ultimatum’s launch don’t happen again, while also planning “future marketing campaigns with contingencies in mind to better handle this kind of situation.” That will probably include a little patience and not trying to push a big marketing plan the instant a game update goes live, when things are most likely to go wrong.