Grand Theft Auto Online is broken. It’s hardly the most startling revelation of the year, as anyone with a lick of common sense predicted that Rockstar’s servers would crash faster than a towed penthouse the moment that the hotly anticipated multiplayer component launched. But with this kind of issue becoming more and more common, isn’t it time that mega publishers started thinking ahead before deploying their wares in an unplayable state?

The publisher was certainly on time with the title’s all-important patch. It promised that the update would launch at 07:00AM EST/12:00PM BST, and we were able to pull down the required file mere minutes after that. All seemed to work well at first: we jumped into the clunky but clever character creation screen swiftly, and embarked upon constructing the gaming equivalent of Frankenstein’s bride straight away. But then, inevitably, it all fell apart.

And the biggest issue with today’s irritating drama is the predictability of it all. No one really expected the online component to work, so it’s less surprising than the sun setting that several hours after the feature’s launch we’ve still been unable to load the mode’s first job. It’s not for the want of trying – we’ve watched our hideous character automatically strut into the centre of an illuminated circle about 25 times – but still we get a crash every single time.

We understand that creating games with heavy server-based components is hard, and we daresay that there’s a sleepy team of engineers frantically fiddling with switches and cables as we type – but it’s just not good enough. Rockstar knew that the demand would be high, and even had an additional two weeks to prepare for the multiplayer mode’s launch. It was quick enough to brag about the title’s income days after the game’s release, so it clearly had a rough idea of the number of copies that it had sold. It doesn’t seem outrageous to suggest that it should have had server capacity in place to cope with the majority of those games.

Instead, the network has completely buckled, and the company’s failed to give any indication of when the issues will be resolved. “For those trying to get into Grand Theft Auto Online today,” the firm Tweeted, “please bear with us on some day one connection issues that we’re working to stabilise as soon as possible.” How long before those “day one” connection issues become “week one” connection issues?

Of course, these problems will be familiar to anyone that’s attempted to play a high-profile online game over the past couple of years. While there are more extreme cases than others, the likes of Diablo III and SimCity all suffered similar hiccups on the PC. Again, the issue was blamed on unprecedented demand, but these companies employ incredibly intelligent people to predict how well their games are going to perform. We refuse to believe that they lack the data to plan for a smooth launch.

We guess that it’s hard to stress test capacity until a product actually deploys, but perhaps publishers should start thinking of ways to stagger their major online launches in order to ensure that everyone is able to obtain an enjoyable experience. Why not incentivise pre-orders by allowing those that register their interest early to get first access to the mode? It might irritate some, but it can’t be as infuriating as sitting staring at an error screen for hours on end.

We hope that Sony’s keeping a close-eye on today’s backlash, because we suspect that we’ll be revisiting this issue later in the year. The platform holder’s promised plenty of amazing features for the PlayStation 4, but it’ll be interesting to see if it can deliver on them all at once. The next generation system’s launch date will bring hundreds of thousands of users, all tapping the vaunted share button at the same time. Will the historically flaky PlayStation Network survive the onslaught of asinine gameplay footage? Much like Grand Theft Auto Online, we suspect that there’ll be smoke clouds gathering over the Japanese giant’s server farm.

We daresay that there are engineer’s shaking their fists at this article as we type – and we do genuinely empathise. But we wouldn’t be impressed if our brand new car ceased operating as soon as we added a couple of passengers, and the same applies to games. We sympathise with those working around the clock to get Rockstar’s intriguing multiplayer component online – but we can’t help but feel that there must be a better solution for all involved.


Have you had a frustrating day trying to access Grand Theft Auto Online? Has it soured you on the experience, or are you willing to try again with a calmer outlook tomorrow? Let us know in the comments section below.

Have you managed to play Grand Theft Auto Online yet? (32 votes)

I've only got as far as the character creation screen

28%

I've managed to watch the intro, but nothing else

31%

I don't know what the fuss is about, it's working fine

3%

I don't even own the game, so this doesn't affect me

38%

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