Video games had a lot to be sorry for in 2021, from the usual screenshot apologies over delays and busted launches, to things that actually matter like years of reported workplace abuse. Don’t worry though, everyone’s trying to do better.
Without further ado, let’s take a stroll down mea culpa lane and remember all the ways people tried to talk about their fuck ups in the games industry in 2021.
After a once-in-a-console generation debacle to close out 2020, CD Projekt Red kicked off 2021 with a video by co-founder Marcin Iwiński trying to come clean and make amends for glitches and crunch. “I, and the entire leadership team, are deeply sorry for this, and this video is me publicly owning up to that,” Iwiński said. He then proceeded to lay out the studio’s plans to patch and update Cyberpunk 2077 throughout the year, a move seemingly aimed at getting ahead of a Bloomberg report that laid bare some of the project’s development woes and strained working conditions.
“Believe me, we never ever intended for anything like this to happen,” Iwiński said. “I assure you that we will do our best to regain your trust.” The studio promised, for a third time, that it would avoid crunch on all future projects. Since the apology, the game’s original post-launch roadmap has continued to fluctuate wildly. The game’s first expansion and PS5 and Xbox Series X/S versions of the game are now planned to arrive sometime in 2022.
The Leviathan expansion for Europa Universalis IV came out in April. It was so bad that even the game’s director admitted the studio fucked up in a forum post a couple weeks later.
“Leviathan was one of the worst releases we have had,” wrote Paradox Tinto boss Johan Andersson. “As the Studio Manager and Game Director, at the end of the day, this is my responsibility, so I have to apologize for this. This is entirely my fault.”
Andersson blamed himself for not giving the team an adequate break after the Emperor expansion and said the studio would accelerate its plans to placate the game’s outraged community. Recent reviews for Leviathan on Valve’s storefront are still extremely negative.
With a new name as inspiring as that, who would have guessed? But no amount of rebranding was going to hide that this year’s Pro Evo Soccer game was not just a mess but one of the worst footballing games ever. Players’ faces looked like they had been possessed by Silent Hill 2, and endless clips of hilariously bizarre animations blew up on social media as a result. Enter the obligatory social media screenshot apology:
“We are very sorry for the problems, and want to assure everyone we will take all concerns seriously and strive to improve the current situation,” Konami wrote. “We will do our utmost to satisfy as many users as possible, and we look forward to your continued support of ‘eFootball 2022™’.” That was in October. Months later eFootball 2022™ is still an eFiasco.
Okay, so this apology didn’t technically take place in 2021, but this year is when it first came to light. Thanks to the multi-million dollar legal dick-swinging competition that was Epic v. Apple, an email CEO Tim Sweeney sent Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot in May 2019 was made public so everyone could witness the rare instance of one rich guy privately groveling in front of another.
“I’m writing to apologize for the shortcomings in our Epic Games store implementation and our Uplay integration,” Sweeney wrote. Within a 48-hour period fraud levels for The Division 2 approached 90%, with scammers buying the game using stolen credit cards and re-selling the Uplay accounts it was on before Epic could get the money back.
“The fault in this situation is entirely Epic’s, and all of the minimum revenue guarantees remain in place to ensure our performance,” wrote Sweeney. “I’m sorry for the trouble.” You may not remember because it was 2,000 years ago, but The Division 2 was one of the first high-profile games to start out exclusive to the Epic Games Store. People were extremely pissed about it. 2019 was so quaint.
Another year, another bro apologizing for saying something vile during a video game stream. Miami Heat center and FaZe Clan member Meyers Leonard was getting sniped in Call of Duty: Warzone in March when he raged and used an anti-semitic slur.
The next day FaZe Clan broke ties with Leonard, and an hour later the NBA pro put out a statement on Twitter.
“I am deeply sorry for using an anti-Semitic slur during a livestream yesterday,” wrote Leonard, who was the only teammate to stand during a Black Lives Matter protest before a 2020 NBA match, and claimed to have no idea the phrase he uttered was racist. “This is not a proper representation of who I am and I want to apologize to the Arisons, my teammates, coaches, front office, and everyone associated with the Miami Heat organizat, to my family, to our loyal fans and to others in the Jewish community who I have hurt.”
The Miami Heat suspended Leonard and his sponsors dropped him. Later that month the team traded him to the Oklahoma City Thunder as salary filler. The Thunder released him a week later. He was last spotted trying to do better until he’s inevitably brought back into the NBA.
Prominent streamer Turry and other players called out Wargaming for shady monetization schemes. A Wargaming employee responded by sneaking “fuck you Turry” into a promo code. This is the real World of Warships and it’s brutal.
Rather than try to pass off “W0LAXU5FKUTURY5" as a weird coincidence or mistake, Wargaming admitted the slight was intentional and pinned it on a rogue employee. “On behalf of the entire World of Warships team, we apologize to the players, the viewers of Friday’s stream, and, most importantly, we apologize to @Turry,” the studio wrote. “We made an unacceptable statement in your address and are fully aware of our responsibility.”
Tripwire Interactive CEO John Gibson enthusiastically tweeted his support for a Texas abortion ban on September 5. “As an entertainer I don’t get political often,” he wrote. “Yet with so many vocal peers on the other side of this issue, I felt it was important to go on the record as a pro-life game developer.”
The next day he was tossed out on his ass. “His comments disregarded the values of our whole team, our partners and much of our broader community,” the company behind Killingfloor and Maneater wrote. “Our leadership team at Tripwire are deeply sorry and are unified in our commitment to take swift action and to foster a more positive environment.”
Gibson later said that Tripwire treated him with nothing but professionalism and class. He hasn’t tweeted since.
Mega YouTube star and Minecraft speedrunner Dream claimed he did not cheat. He was very emphatic on that point for six long months, releasing reams of statistical analysis and arguments in his defense back when he was first accused last year. Community mods declared his wickedly fast speedrun to be “too unlikely to verify,” in part because the odds of some of the things that happened during it actually happening that way were one in over a hundred billion. Dream denied all allegations. He even hired experts to prove his innocence. Academic papers were written. It was a long, drawn out thing full of denials.
Until this year when he suddenly confessed to having a disqualifying mod that boosted drop rates active at the time of the speedrun in question. Ooops!
“I think the whole situation was extremely shitty overall for everyone involved, and I wish that I could go back and do things differently because it was some of the worst weeks of my life and still impacts me every day,” he wrote. “I’m sorry to anyone that I let down or disappointed.”
Microsoft had been dancing around exclusivity for months after the Bethesda acquisition in the hopes of not unnecessarily enraging fanboys still holding out hope that it spent $7.5 billion for some reason other than making that star-studded library 100 percent its own. Following E3 2021, Bethesda’s Pete Hines finally ripped the bandaid off.
“I don’t know how to allay the concerns of PlayStation 5 fans other than to say, well, I’m a PlayStation 5 player as well, and I’ve played games on that console, and there’s games I’m gonna continue to play on it,” Hines told GameSpot during a livestream. “All I can really say is, ‘I apologize,’ because I’m certain that that’s frustrating to folks, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it.”
Hines remains very not sorry, however, for blacklisting Kotaku for nearly a decade over that time we reported that Fallout 4 would be set in Boston. We aren’t losing sleep over it though, and I’m sure Hines isn’t either in his new multi-million dollar mansion. Since our emails go directly to spam I’ll say it here: happy holidays to you and the rest of the team Pete!
Alongside the NFT bonanza, everyone who’s anyone has also been pushing junk cryptocurrencies, including members of the popular gaming influencer group FaZe Clan. Here is the short version: blockchain tokens called “Save the Kids’’ came out in June. FaZe members Kay, Jarvis, Nikan and Teeqo backed it. The value of the token spiked and then plummeted. Fans were upset. An investigation by YouTuber SomeOrdinaryGamers pointed to a number of weird conincidences that made the whole thing seem shady as fuck.
FaZe Clan promptly condemned the cryptocurrency push, dropped Kay, and suspended Jarvis, Nikan, and Teeqo. Kay said he had “no ill intent,” was just “very passionate about the crypto space,” and was struggling with how he had let all of his fans down.
A couple weeks later he tried to have the SomeOrdinaryGamers video taken off YouTube and told fans not to believe the lies being circulated online about him. A couple weeks after that Kay released a 30-minute video in which he maintained his innocence, promised to pay all of his fans back, and profusely apologized for the things he was apparently innocent of. “I feel awful that this ever happened and I just want to do everything I can to help fix it,” he said.
2021 was the year that some apologies got very, very weird. Perhaps none more so than Capcom’s trailer for Pragmata in which a silver-haired CGI child held up a card announcing it was delayed like she was creeping on Keira Knightley.
“Our team is hard at work on the project, but to ensure this will be an unforgettable adventure, we’ve decided to shift the release window to 2023,” Capcom wrote in its official announcement about the scif-fi game’s ongoing development. “In the meantime, we have a brand new artwork to share with you. Thank you for your patience.”
Were you patiently waiting around for the release of neo-arcade shoot’em up Sol Cresta? I was not. I mean, it’s cool that it’s coming but also I had no idea it was even supposed to be out this month until Platinum Games developer Hideki Kamiya hosted a “Very Sorry” livestream devoted entirely to the fact that it no longer was.
Staff read an apparent letter by a fan who was previously crushed by the delay of Viewtiful Joe and now once again crushed by the delay of Sol Cresta. Kamiya said a shift in scope meant the game wasn’t ready yet. The whole thing was very bizarre. Let’s do it again sometime.
Two weeks! That was all it took for Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker director Naoki Yoshida to get teary-eyed during a stream revealing that the long-anticipated expansion would be out in December instead of late November.
“As we also anticipate large amounts of congestion across all game Worlds, I felt that even in this respect it wouldn’t be right for us to release the expansion while lacking adequate ‘stability,’ he said. “I am truly sorry.”
Yoshida has been apologizing a lot this year, possibly more than any other single game developer despite successfully overseeing the most profitable Final Fantasy ever, and one that continues to be so beloved it won best ongoing game at this year’s Game Awards. Yoshida was very sorry for overloaded servers earlier this year, and once again today after Square Enix announced it would temporarily stop selling the game because it’s just too popular right now.
The Grand Theft Auto Trilogy remasters weren’t delayed, but definitely should have been. After delisting the original versions, publisher Take-Two put HD versions of GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas out into the world where they were immediately pilloried by critics and fans for bizarre bugs, a lack of open world fog, and of course the eye-stabbing rain.
Things were so bad that a week later Rockstar apologized for the busted remasters, brought back the original versions, and gave them away for free to anyone who had bought the Trilogy.
“We want to sincerely apologize to everyone who has encountered issues playing these games. The Grand Theft Auto series — and the games that make up this iconic trilogy — are as special to us as we know they are to fans around the world,” Rockstar wrote. “The updated versions of these classic games did not launch in a state that meets our own standards of quality, or the standards our fans have come to expect.”
The Destiny 2-maker has a reputation for progressive politics and trying to be a beacon for improved working conditions among bigger game studios, but a recent report by IGN shined a light on issues going back years, ranging from structural failures to protection for a group of toxic managers accused making offensive remarks, berating coworkers, and pushing crunch culture.
Several developers at the studio, past and present, added their voices to the report on social media, and Bungie CEO was both apologetic but also defensive in a blog post addressing the article.
“I want to apologize to anyone who has ever experienced anything less than a safe, fair, and professional working environment at Bungie,” Parsons wrote. “I am not here to refute or to challenge the experiences we’re seeing shared today by people who have graced our studio with their time and talent. Our actions or, in some cases, inactions, caused these people pain. I apologize personally and on behalf of everyone at Bungie who I know feels a deep sense of empathy and sadness reading through these accounts.”
Following an unprecedented California lawsuit alleging widespread sexual discrimiatnion and harssment, a second by Federal regulators which is currently headed to settlement, and numerous reports highlighting longstanding problems and past misconduct, no gaming company has more to be sorry for than publishing goliath Activision Blizzard.
Let’s quickly recap how its denials morphed into apologies over the last six months:
- First a spokesperson called the initial DFEH lawsuit “irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats.”
- Chief Compliance Officer Fran Townsend called the lawsuit “meritless” in a follow-up company-wide email.
- CEO Bobby Kotick later conceded “I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding” after employees staged a walkout.
- The Wall Street Journal reported that Townsend also later apologized for her initial email at a women’s group meeting for Activision employees.
- Months later, Kotick apologized again even more strongly in a letter announcing concessions to protesting employees. “People were deeply let down and, for that, I am truly sorry,” he wrote.
- It turned out that Townsend’s original email was actually drafted by Kotick. “[He] takes responsibility for the incident and regrets it,” a spokesperson said. “Ms. Townsend should not be blamed for this mistake.”
And that’s just the official company line. Others specifically at Blizzard, past and present, went on their own apology tour.
- “We failed, and I’m sorry,” wrote Diablo co-creator Chris Metzen.
- Former Blizzard president J. Allen Brack told staff said allegations against the company were “extremely troubling,” but reassured them that feminist icon Gloria Steinem was a “revered saint” in his household growing up.
- “I apologize for those as well as for this one,” former World of Warcraft lead designer Greg Street said of a BlizzCon 2010 panel where a female fan was dismissed and made fun of for asking for less sexualized characters.
- “To the Blizzard women who experienced any of these things, I am extremely sorry that I failed you,” wrote former Blizzard co-founder and CEO, Michael Morhaime. “I realize that these are just words, but I wanted to acknowledge the women who had awful experiences. I hear you, I believe you, and I am so sorry to have let you down.” According to The Wall Street Journal, Morhaime praised then-outgoing-CTO Ed Kilgore in a 2018 company email after he had just been terminated for sexual misconduct.
Meanwhile, current and former leadership across many Activision studios, including those where sexual misconduct was reportedly ignored or covered up, appear to still be working on crafting their apologies.
We didn’t delay games or face a workplace abuse reckoning, but Kotaku also made an apology this year. Shortly after the launch of Metroid Dread, we reported that it was already being emulated in 4K on PC. The original version of the story was believed by some to encourage piracy of Nintendo’s latest Switch game.
“We regret this interpretation and apologize, as the original article did not meet our editorial standards,” we wrote after the article went viral, prompting Nintendo to request a reassertion that Kotaku does not promote or encourage piracy. We look forward to Nintendo reasserting that it does not promote greylisting websites for doing journalism.
Update: 12/16/21, 4:15 p.m. ET: Added an entry for Bungie.