A few days ago, I was lamenting to a friend that the Hottest Mess competition had cooled recently. Somewhere, a monkey's paw must have curled, because Unity decided Embracer shouldn't go unchallenged for this dubious crown. This is not to say there are only two viable candidates for the top prize, but... hoo boy.
There is no shortage of candidates this year, both from news items I've pulled and suggestions in the Mid-Year Check-In thread from July. This isn't a fully comprehensive list, as I probably missed several during the crazy new release period a couple of weeks ago (or so Embracer would hope). If you have a suggestion, here's a reminder of the criteria I set for this to avoid becoming an enormous downer: "I understand why the category was discontinued [in GB GOTY]: none of the following compare to the biggest problems in the gaming industry. Those include harassment, abuse, grooming, threats, discrimination, exploitation, and layoffs. Some of these issues are even factors in the candidates listed below. However, these are also a huge bummer and the point of this category is to have some fun, at least as I see it." Additionally, the MS-ABK attempted merger was granted immunity for being a 2022 runner-up, but at this point it doesn't feel nearly as messy as a lot of this list.
One final note: I ended up removing the Twisted Metal TV show and Six Days in Fallujah from the original 2023 list. The former turned out to be OK at worst, and the latter didn't cause any splash when it came out. We're looking for bloopers and blow-ups, not tepidly questionable ideas. And lastly, I had a seat saved for the Borderlands movie, but that's coming out in August 2024, apparently.
- Baldur's Gate 3 patch rolls out and erases some save files, which end up being not recoverable in limited cases
- Crime Boss: Rockay City, which looked virtually unplayable at times on UPF
- E3 2023, which was cancelled after a questionable attempt at resurrection, and hopes look very slim for it ever returning
- Elden Ring's ray-tracing, which made the game perform worse on every platform
- The Embracer Group's leadership: (takes a deep breath) after the company hemorrhaged value as its acquisition strategy faltered, it shuttered studios during major embargo lifts to avoid attention and paying health insurance benefits, then began shopping properties it so lustily acquired a couple years ago; nearly everyone says "I told you so"
- The ESRB wants to add face-scanning tech to allow you to play games, which has privacy rights advocates salivating over potential lawsuits
- Final Fantasy XVI, which suffered severe framerate issues and prompted Square-Enix to lose $2 billion USD after it received the patented "Disappointed Parent" response from SE's leadership
- Geoff Keighley's security force, which can't stop people from Mr. Magooing onstage at Gamescom Opening Night Live
- The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, which made Blight Club in the same year it was released and caused an entire studio to give up on making games
- Metacritic user reviews, whose more homophobic users review-bombed Horizon Forbidden West DLC and Skullgirls
- Minecraft servers, on which classified US Military documents were leaked and caused mainstream news outlets to clutch their pearls at the very notion
- Morons who got upset about being able to play with men and women on the same pitch in EA FC 24
- NBA2K24 becomes the second-lowest rated game on Steam ever for using a last-gen port
- NVIDIA RTX 4060, whose value was ridiculously poor for its price and performance
- Overwatch 2, which cancelled its PvE Hero Mode and arguably its reason to exist as a sequel, and was review-bombed on its Steam release as a result
- Overwatch League, which can't keep itself from signing groomers and may be on the verge of collapse
- PC ports riddled with bugs, most notably Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and The Last of Us, Part 1
- PS Plus dramatically increases prices, surprising many
- Redfall, which flopped right out of the gate
- Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, which had a terrible preview showing and was delayed indefinitely afterwards
- Testament: The Order of High Human, which got terrible reviews to accompany its terrible name; also doesn't appear to even have a GB page
- Twitch, which changed (or attempted to) its payouts and branded content permissions
- Twitter (which I'm deadnaming), whose slow-motion implosion affects game developers and publishers as the social media diaspora continues
- Unity changes how they monetize, receives an enormous backlash, backpedals on some of it while clarifying it's probably worse than you think, and causing developers to seriously consider switching platforms or taking their games offline to avoid the charges
- Winter 2023's live service game graveyard, where a dominant game format began to meet its end
Once again, I'll update this list with a final pre-poll post in November or thereabouts. I'm considering making it a multiple answers poll and putting people on scout's honor, just to give each of these rancid little morsels the respect they've earned in the Hottest Mess category.