Vaporware – Hot air instead of real programs and products

Here at Sir Apfelot we occasionally explain terms that apply to certain areas of software and hardware. In the Contribution to malware you get all the information about malware and its types; in the Contribution to Abandonware Read everything about abandoned or abandoned software. But this is about vaporware. This is a term for software and hardware that has been widely announced but is then only released inadequately or not at all. The term vaporware has been used since the 1980s. However, there is currently a lot of potential for the rapid increase in vaporware.

Vaporware describes software and hardware that comes onto the market very late, not to the extent intended, or not at all. You can find further information and examples in this article.
Vaporware describes software and hardware that comes onto the market very late, not to the extent intended, or not at all. You can find further information and examples in this article.

What does the term “vaporware” mean?

Vaporware is a made-up word that comes from Steam and the -goods composed of hardware and software. While the “-ware” root word is self-explanatory, “vapor” will be briefly explained here: this word can be translated as “haze” or “steam”. Hardware or software that is referred to as vaporware is “hot air” or “sound and smoke”. The term was coined in the mid-80s and appeared in Infoworld magazine around 1985. But it was already about the Golden Vaporware Award, which was given to Bill Gates for the delay in Windows 1.0. So there was already a certain establishment of the term.

What is vaporware?

There is no clear, generally valid definition of vaporware. Above all, it refers to products, programs and video games that are widely announced and advertised but then never appear. The term is also used for hardware and software whose release is constantly being postponed, where the release is pending or is coming out very late. Furthermore, vaporware can be used as a term if the content or scope of what is ultimately published does not correspond to what was previously advertised (e.g. video games with worse graphics than those advertised).

Examples of video games that have been described as vaporware

On Wikipedia page on the term You can find further information on the topic, such as the annual Vaporware Awards. This negative price has been in effect since 1996, among other things. accompanied by reporting from Wired magazine. The game was named “Vaporware of the Year” in 2011 Duke Nukem Forever excellent because it was announced in 1997 and was therefore over a decade late. Further examples are also: Final Fantasy XV, the one that has never been published before Half-Life 3 and also Cyberpunk 2077 listed. The latter appeared at the end of 2020 in a partially buggy state and on last-gen consoles with unreasonable graphics. More about it here: What are AAA games (Triple-A games)?

Vaporware potential: crowdfunding and sophisticated game engines

In addition to hardware and software that was released much later than originally announced and then perhaps in a significantly scaled-down state, there are also even worse cases of vaporware. Because there are also products, programs and games that are announced with a lot of advertising but then never end up on the market. Fans of the individual projects may be put off for months or years, fended off with sparse updates and ultimately left empty-handed. This is particularly fatal if the alleged development is accompanied by financial support.

Planned products or rip-off projects that were initially designed as fake offers can be financed by fans via crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe, Startnext, Steady, Patreon and the like. They then either receive real updates about development progress or are kept on the project with fake updates. Regardless of whether a real development is canceled or a fake campaign is ended, in the end the people behind it may make off with the money. However, depending on the financing platform, there are also safeguards for investors that protect them from this (note the terms and conditions!).

It can be similar with software and especially video games. The hype is often built up through high-resolution trailers from modern engines. Epic Games' Unreal Engine 5 is ideal for creating photorealistic environments and videos. You can get used to it quite quickly and it's free to use (up to a certain income level, above which fees become necessary). Fake projects can be created comparatively quickly and easily and then unfinished games can be created Early Access title offer – for example via Steam. In addition to never-released games, there can be rip-offs with unfinished titles. However, game clients such as Steam also offer some protection against this.

Here is a video on the topic, titled “Unreal Engine 5 Trailer: Real Games or Just Scam?”:

Conclusion on vaporware in different areas

As you can see, there is no clear definition for the term vaporware. These may be offers that appear very late and therefore appear to have been abandoned in the meantime. But it can also be products that are announced as being far too powerful and feature-rich and end up being extremely disappointing. And last but not least, the term can serve as a description for products or software that are hyped and expected by many, but ultimately never see the light of day. This can, but does not have to, involve rip-offs. There are currently numerous opportunities for this with easily accessible crowdfunding, options for deception (image AIs, cheap design aids, etc.) and engines like Unreal 5.

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