The launch of Driveclub hasn’t exactly been smooth. After having been delayed a full year , the game has been plagued with server issues that still haven’t been completely resolved and has been pulled from Playstation Plus indefinitely. By most accounts Driveclub is a great game, but this constant barrage of connectivity issues threatens to kill the game before it’s had a chance to shine.
Any game with a heavy mutliplayer component lives or dies by it’s community. Generally, a good launch will help the game down the road, since having a more active multiplayer community leads to more people wanting to join in, which in turn leads to a longer lifespan for the multiplayer, and on and on we go. Unless the game is Call of Duty or Halo, this is generally how it works, and a well nurtured online community can lead to big things for the future as all the fans who have been playing long term jump onto the sequel. However, the reverse is also true: An online community that dies off quickly will have very little momentum for a possible sequel, since who wants to play a multiplayer game that no one else is playing? This is why a strong launch is paramount: build a strong community on the offset and it’s much easier to keep it going down the line. This is also exactly where Driveclub will be hurt the most.
With the online portion of Driveclub not working for the first month, it hasn’t had a chance to build the initial online community, and with few (if any) people playing now, chances are not good that others will start playing in the future. Even Driveclub’s release date is working against it. Sony was very smart to release Driveclub at the beginning of October, before the big holiday rush and the release of the industry’s heavy hitters, but still close enough to the holidays to give it the boost a new franchise needs. Unfortunately, this smart move has worked against them when combined with the server issues. Games tend to have a very narrow window to capture players’ attention before they move on to the next latest and greatest. This is even more pronounced closer to the holidays, when a barrage of extremely popular videogames are released all at once. Simply put, Driveclub blew it’s chance to build an audience and now that Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, GTA V, and all the other big holiday games are either here or just about to be; the players are not going to look back. They’ve moved on.
Similar to Driveclub, let’s travel back to the massive PSN outage of 2011. The Network went down of April 20th, one day after the release of Socom 4. Even though it wasn’t the developers fault, the damage was done. The network outage lasted 24 days and by the time it cleared up the players had their fill of Socom 4 and moved on. It was the last game in the series, the developer was closed, and Sony doesn’t seem to have any interest in bringing the franchise back. Even the latest Sim City suffered from it’s server issues, and what was meant to be one of EA’s biggest games of the year quietly fizzled out as sales and consumer interest fell off a cliff.
All hope might not be lost for Driveclub, though. It has one more chance: If it’s Playstation Plus release is timed right, the influx of new players could reinvigorate the community and put Driveclub back on track. Then again, it might be too late. If the stigma of “not working” sticks with it, even the free release on PS+ might not be enough to save the game, and what could have been a very promising franchise will crash before the race even began.