These free-to-play games struggled to gain much attention when they were first released but have since turned it around and built huge audiences.
Back in the 90s, most video games cost money as the internet was slow and cartridges were physical. However, things have changed significantly three decades later. Now we have fiber optics, and almost everything is digital, which gives developers a chance to build games that can be cost-effective even when they're free to play.
Over the last ten years, many zero-cost titles have come out on different platforms. Some have failed, while others are still played to this day. However, a few games bombed at launch but came back with a blast. Let's take a look at some of those amazing free-to-play titles.
Most fans know PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS as the ultimate granddaddy of battle-royale games. It's a game based on Brendan "PlayerUnknown" Greene's mods from Arma 3, who took inspiration from the Japanese film Battle Royale. While PUBG is extremely popular on mobile nowadays and is getting better reviews daily, there was a time during its launch when it got bombed by negative reception.
PUBG officially came out on Steam in late 2017 and received over 60 percent of poor reviews. Steam "CUSTOMER REVIEWS" shows the game got bombarded with criticism upon its launch, and it wasn't until 2019 that it recovered from that.
Destiny 2 is an extremely popular action MMO with a positive reception on Steam in 2022. The game is a must-play for anyone looking for something with AAA quality and no price whatsoever. Moreover, it's a first-person shooter with some of the best gunplay mechanics in a game ever.
Hence, it is shocking that the game totally bombed on launch and the remnants of its failure are still visible on the internet. According to Metacritic, Destiny 2 on PC is a 4.3/10 game, as most reviews on the website are from the time of its launch. Fortunately, Bungie's shooter has since redeemed itself in the hearts of gamers.
Warframe is one of Steam's most reviewed free-to-play games, with close to half a million customer reviewers. Developer Digital Extremes describe their game as an experience where players battle alongside their friends in a story-driven free-to-play online action environment.
Warframe first came out in 2013 and has since thrived in terms of the player base. However, there was a time during its launch when it completely bombed to encapsulate gamers. For the first nine months after launch, Warframe struggled to get even five thousand reviews on Steam.
World of Tanks Blitz is the evolution of the free-to-play classic by the same name. The game is famous for being a cross-platform title between mobile phones, handheld tablets, and PC. The renowned tank game offers over three hundred iconic armored vehicles from around the globe, over twenty different arenas, and a deep progression system with ten tiers of unlocks.
The game also has over a hundred thousand very positive reviews on Steam, which shows it's quite popular among the players. However, World of Tanks Blitz tanked after its launch in 2016 and finally got attention four years later in the pandemic era.
Among Us is one of the most viral multiplayer games in the last decade. It's a 2d online co-op game that focuses on social deduction. In the game, players must collaborate with their friends to find out which one of them is the murderer on the spaceship. As simple as the concept is, it's catchy and engaging, and the game's 500,000 very positive reviews on Steam show that.
Shockingly, Among Us was a massive launch failure in 2019 and barely received player attention until September 2020. The game is now free-to-play on iOS and Android, which means anyone can try it out.
Rogue Company is another game that kicked off months after its launch in 2021. During its release, the game received critical complaints from players around the globe who bombed it with over a thousand negative reviews. However, with time things have changed as it is currently a "Mostly Positive" game on Steam.
The game's introduction even states, "Join 20+ million players in Rogue Company, the ultimate third-person tactical action shooter!" It is amazing how quickly this game garnered its massive player base after failing at launch.
PlanetSide 2 has been there since 2012, which means this year's November will be its tenth anniversary. The decade-long run proves that this game has been a success for developers and players worldwide while being free-to-play and easily available on multiple platforms.
However, the game's first year was a massive disappointment in sheer numbers, as the Steam page reveals it didn't get attention until one year after its release. PlanetSide 2 received 200-300 reviewers each month in its first year until it finally got a whopping boost in December 2013 and another one during the pandemic.
The Lord of the Rings Online is another game that came out on Steam in 2012 with soft reception and bare minimum review scores from players. Despite its big name, when the game got its re-release on the popular PC platform, it initially failed to bring many players.
The first few months of the review board on Steam reveal The Lord of the Rings Online™ got only 20-50 positive reviews each month for one and a half years after its relaunch. However, the game got popular over time and saw its peak in November 2019.
DC Universe Online has made the biggest u-turn in terms of quality and quantity. During its launch in 2011, the popular Detective Comics game got bare minimum review scores from players and continued to do so until late 2013. That proves the game struggled to build a player base until it suddenly kicked off in 2014 and then later in 2020.
DC Universe Online now gets over a hundred positive remarks every month, which shows it has become much more popular since its launch. Moreover, the free-to-play massively multiplayer online action game now has so much content that it's certainly worth playing for anyone.
Rec Room is a free-to-play multiplayer co-op party game that can be played on a screen but is mostly a virtual reality title. It's a fun and sweet game for people who want to try out their new VR headset or make friends doing random activities and try out "MILLIONS of player-created rooms."
While the game is super popular at the moment, it completely bombed during its launch in 2016. However, its failure wasn't due to quality like other games on the list. Instead, Rec Room got popular because VR has become quite affordable since Oculus Quest came out in the market.
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Ashish Walia is a writer, animator, designer, and, most importantly, a gamer. He’s a part of Valnet, Inc, writing for TheGamer.com and GameRant.com. He’s a Bachelor of Arts and is very keen on doing anything and everything that piques his interest. Rumor has it, he thinks about video games more than he breaths.