Update: Some streamers have the game now, though it hasn't released wide yet.
If you looked at Twitch earlier today, you would've seen the same grouping of games that always sit at the top of its Browse section. But, sitting just beyond that top ten most-watched games was Atlas, the new pirate MMO from the makers of ARK: Survival Evolved. For several hours today, over 33,000 people were watching a variety of streamers in that category. But none of those streamers were actually playing Atlas. Instead, everyone was just sitting around and waiting for it to release—or they were until developer Studio Wildcard, who appear to be developing Atlas under the name Grapeshot Games, announced that Atlas would be delayed again. This is the third time Atlas' release date has been pushed back since it was originally announced at the Game Awards on December 6, and, understandably, Atlas' burgeoning community of eager would-be players is pretty upset about it.
Since midnight, dozens of Twitch streamers like 'pairfect' have been sitting on Twitch wearing pirate costumes while countdown timers ticked away presumably heralding the official release of Atlas on Steam. Those countdown timers, though, were never accurate as developers Studio Wildcard had never specified the exact time that Atlas would release. All anybody knew was that it would arrive some time today on December 21. But, just over an hour ago, Atlas' official Twitter finally said the full release of the game would be, again, delayed until December 22 with some streamers getting early access later tonight. Almost immediately after, Atlas dropped to just a few thousand viewers on Twitch while its official Discord of over 23,000 people has boiled over into a seething rage. At this point, I wouldn't blame anyone for being suspicious of this new release date.
"This is a joke, right?" Wrote one Discord member before their comment was drowned in a sea of insults and criticism. If you take a minute to watch the channel, others aren't nearly as kind.
While insults and harassment are never tolerable, it's understandable why fans are upset. Atlas first debuted at The Game Awards on December 6 with a cool trailer that promised to take ARK's survival systems and mash them together with a single-server, player-driven world inspired by EVE Online. When I flew out to Studio Wildcard's Seattle offices to check it out last month, I really liked what I saw. Atlas looks so different to just about every MMO.
Atlas was supposed to launch on December 13, but only a few days after its reveal it was delayed to December 19. Given that buzz around the game was still building, I don't think people were all that concerned about a delay for an MMO they hadn't known existed a week ago. But what really upset players is when December 19 rolled around and the countdown timer on the official website slowly ticked down to zero. People were expecting to be able to buy Atlas, but nothing was happening. Then the official Twitter announced the launch date was pushed back to December 21 a half an hour after the countdown had ended.
That same thing has happened today, with dozens of streams and tens of thousands of viewers eager to see what would surely be Atlas' actual launch. But this third delay isn't exactly giving anyone reason to be optimistic.
Delays are a normal part of game development and it's always a good thing when developers take the extra time to work on a game—even if that leads to temporary frustration from players. But Atlas' day-to-day delays are concerning, because it implies that things are down to the wire. Atlas is now expected to release three days before Christmas, and MMOs are live products that need constant developer attention—especially during its first weeks when issues like server stability and major bugs can ruin players' experience. So why on earth would Studio Wildcard release an MMO days before Christmas when that presumably means employees responsible for uptime and fixes won't get a break?
I've reached out to Studio Wildcard to get some clarification on the delay and will update this article when I hear back. But it's clear to see that Atlas' Early Access launch is turning into a disaster as players are growing increasingly tired of the lack of communication.