The lights are on
Microsoft Xbox (November, 2001)
Launch Grade: B
In its console debut, Microsoft put some noticeable first-party effort behind the launch. Although almost all of those franchises are now gone, without Halo: Combat Evolved Microsoft might be out of video games by now.
Titles Available on Launch Day:4X4 Evo 2, AirForce Delta Storm, Arctic Thunder, Cel Damage, Dead or Alive 3, Fuzion Frenzy, Halo: Combat Evolved, Mad Dash Racing, NFL Fever 2002, Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee, Project Gotham Racing, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
Nintendo GameCube (November, 2001)
Launch Grade: B-
Unlike previous Nintendo home systems, the company decided to pad out the GameCube launch with some third-party titles. While this approach was admirable, the exclusive titles like Luigi's Mansion and Rogue Leader remain the only stand-out games.
Titles Available on Launch Day:All-Star Baseball 2002, Batman: Vengeance, Crazy Taxi, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2, Disney's Tarzan Untamed, Luigi's Mansion, Madden NFL 2002, NHL Hitz 20-02, Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II, Super Monkey Ball, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, Wave Race: Blue Storm
Nintendo DS (November, 2004)
Launch Grade: D
Titles Available on Launch Day:Super Mario 64 DS, Asphalt Urban GT, The Urbz: Sims in the City, Feel the Magic: XY/XX, Spider-Man 2, Madden NFL 2005
PlayStation Portable (March, 2005)
Launch Grade: C
Titles Available on Launch Day:Ape Escape: On the Loose, Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower, Dynasty Warriors, Gretzky NHL, Lumines, Metal Gear Acid, NBA, Need for Speed: Underground Rivals, NFL Street 2: Unleashed, Ridge Racer, Spider-Man 2, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix, Twisted Metal: Head-On, Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade, Wipeout Pure, World Tour Soccer
Xbox 360 (November, 2005)
Launch Grade: B-
Unlike the launching of the original Xbox, the 360's lineup contained a noticeable dearth of first-party titles (even sadder is the fact that Kameo and Perfect Dark Zero were duds). Although in hindsight the Xbox 360 launch doesn't draw much excitement anymore, the 18 games listed garnered an average 8.2 score from Game Informer.
Titles Available on Launch Day:Amped 3, Call of Duty 2, Condemned: Criminal Origins, FIFA 06, Gun, Kameo: Elements of Power, Madden NFL 2006, NBA 2K6, NBA Live 06, Need For Speed: Most Wanted, NHL 2K6, Perfect Dark Zero, Peter Jackson's King Kong, Project Gotham Racing 3, Quake 4, Ridge Racer 6, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06, Tony Hawk's American Wasteland
PlayStation 3 (November, 2006)
Launch Grade: C
It took a while for developers to get a handle on making games for the system, making this launch lineup less than exceptional.
Titles Available on Launch Day:Call of Duty 3, Genji: Days of the Blade, Madden NFL 07, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire, NBA 2K7, Need for Speed Carbon, NHL 2K7, Resistance: Fall of Man, Ridge Racer 7, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07, Tony Hawk's Project 8
Nintendo Wii (November, 2006)
In what may be viewed as a portent of the casual audience that became the system's bread and butter, the Wii launch was not dominated by The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, but rather by pack-in title Wii Sports.
Titles Available on Launch Day:Avatar: The Last Airbender, Call of Duty 3, Cars, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2, ExciteTruck, The Grim Adventures of Bill & Mandy, GT Pro Series, Happy Feet, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Madden NFL 07, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Monster 4x4 World Circuit, Rampage: Total Destruction, Rayman Raving Rabbids, Red Steel, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Creature From The Krusty Krab, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam, Trauma Center: Second Opinion, Wii Sports (pack‑in game)
Nintendo 3DS (March, 2011)
Launch Grade: D
Titles Available on Launch Day:Asphalt 3D, Bust-a-Move Universe, Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D, Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, Nintendogs + Cats, Madden NFL Football, Pilotwings Resort, Pro Evolution Soccer 3DS, Rayman 3D, Ridge Racer 3D, Samurai Warriors: Chronicles, The Sims 3, Steel Diver, Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, Super Monkey Ball 3D, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars
PlayStation Vita (February, 2012)
Despite the sheer number of games, the Vita started out not having learned the lessons of the PSP – that you need a killer app to draw people in.
Titles Available on Launch Day:Army Corps of Hell, Asphalt Injection, Ben10: Galactic Racing, Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend, Dungeon Hunter Alliance, Dynasty Warriors Next, F1 2011, FIFA Soccer, Lumines Electronic Symphony, Michael Jackson The Experience, Plants vs. Zombies (PSN), Rayman Origins, Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen, Tales of Space: Mutant Blobs (PSN), Touch My Katamari, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, Virtual Tennis 4: World Tour Edition,
Wii U (November, 2012)
The Wii U benefitted from a better third-party presence, even if some of the games had already been released on other systems. In general, the launch was about quantity rather than quality. It's telling that among the many games here, none of them made the case that the system's GamePad was indispensable.
Titles Available on Launch Day: Assassin's Creed III, Batman: Arkham City – Armored Edition, Ben 10: Omniverse, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Darksiders II, Epic Mikey 2: The Power of Two, FIFA 13, Funky Barn, Game Party Champions, Just Dance 4, Madden NFL 13, Mass Effect 3: Special Edition, Nano Assault Neo, NBA 2K13, New Super Mario Bros. U, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, Nintendo Land, Rabbids Land, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Sing Party, Skylanders: Giants, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Sports Connection, Tank! Tank! Tank!, Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition, Transformers: Prime, Trine 2, Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper, Wipeout 3, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013, ZombiU
The Best & Worst Launches
The award for the best day-one software lineup has to go to the NES. The national launch featured one of the greatest games of all time – Super Mario Bros. – and was far from a one-trick pony. Titles like Excitebike, Kung Fu, and Duck Hunt are still synonymous with the system.
This accolade for Nintendo is balanced out by the fact that the Nintendo 3DS was the worst-rated launch according to Game Informer's own review scores. The 15 titles available day one (not including Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D, which we didn't review) only scored an average of 6.45. This was only slightly worse than the DS' 6.75 average.
Despite this, of the platforms listed above, the launch of the Atari 5200 has to go down as the worst in history for its inability to offer relevant games or do anything to positively state the cases for the system.
Email the author Matthew Kato, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.