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A launch game, or launch title, is a video game released to consumers synchronously with the release of its respective video game console, meaning they are the only available games at the time of the console's launch. Several of these games are also packaged with the console. Because launch games provide first impressions of the console's features and technical abilities, they are important in the video game industry, and many launch games have been killer apps.
Quality vs. quantity
Historically, the number of launch games has been an important factor in deciding the success of a gaming platform. The more games available at launch, the higher the chances that players will find something that interests them. However, the same importance applies to game quality: poor quality games do not sell as well in the long term as high quality ones.
When preparing for a major console launch, developers and publishers have a decision to make. They can release a large number of launch games, often accompanied by the promise of more soon after launch, or they can release a few extremely strong games, or a killer game. Whilst releasing a large number of extremely strong titles is of course preferred, this may not be practical. To balance these choices, developers will often supplement one or two strong titles with third-party or licensed titles to bolster the number of launch titles.
These are some popular games that debuted at launch.
- Bally Astrocade (1977) — Checkmate and Gun Fight
- ColecoVision (1982) — Donkey Kong and Zaxxon
- Atari 5200 (1982) — Galaxian, Pac-Man, Space Invaders
- Family Computer (1983) — Donkey Kong Jr.
- Nintendo Entertainment System (1985 U.S. Control Deck) — Super Mario Bros.
- Sega Master System (1985) — Hang-On
- Family Computer Disk System (1986) — The Legend of Zelda
- PC-Engine Super CD-ROM² / TurboGrafx-CD (1988) — Street Fighter
- TurboGrafx-16 (1989 US launch) — R-Type
- Game Boy (1989) — Super Mario Land and Tetris
- Mega Drive / Genesis (1989 US launch) — Altered Beast and Thunder Force II
- Neo Geo (1990) — Magician Lord
- Super Nintendo Entertainment System (1990) — Super Mario World and F-Zero
- PlayStation (1994) — Ridge Racer and Wipeout (Europe)
- Saturn (1995) — Panzer Dragoon and Daytona USA
- N64 (1996) — Super Mario 64, and Pilotwings 64
- Dreamcast (1999) — Sonic Adventure and Soulcalibur
- PlayStation 2 (2000) — Midnight Club: Street Racing and Tekken Tag Tournament
- Xbox (2001) — Halo: Combat Evolved, Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee and Project Gotham Racing
- GameCube (2001) — Luigi's Mansion and Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
- Xbox 360 (2005) — Kameo: Elements of Power, Perfect Dark Zero and Call of Duty 2
- Wii (2006) — Wii Sports, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Red Steel
- PlayStation 3 (2006) — Resistance: Fall of Man and MotorStorm (Europe)
- Wii U (2012) — Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Bros. U, ZombiU
- PlayStation 4 (2013) — Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack
- Xbox One (2013) — Dead Rising 3, Forza Motorsport 5 and Ryse: Son of Rome