Trivia/Demand Overload YKTTW Discussion

Trivia/Demand Overload
Content is so popular that the servers it's hosted on can't handle the resulting traffic.
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(permanent link) added: 2012-01-07 05:55:03 sponsor: SonicLover edited by: QuestionMarker (last reply: 2014-12-28 03:25:47)

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(Grabbed by Question Marker since this trope has hats and yet no sponsor for two years.)

When the latest update to an online something-or-other is released, sometimes so many people crowd in to view it that the website crashes. That, ladies and gentlemen, is an example of a Demand Overload: an update or issue so awesome it's directly responsible for crashing the host website.

A Demand Overload can happen due to a number of reasons. It may be due to popularity caused by positive word-of-mouth or a good marketing campaign. But, especially in the age of social media, another common way to cause one is when a famous personality gives a Colbert Bump to a site that cannot handle the sudden and large increase in traffic the new publicity brings with it. A popular website like Reddit posting a link to a smaller, relatively unknown site can also cause a similar effect, known as the Slashdot effect.

This trope also applies to other forms of media; for example, a product selling out so quickly it can't be kept on the shelves. The technical term for when demands hugely overwhelms supply is backordered.

Contrast Acclaimed Flop. Depending on how you look at it, can be a subtrope of Gone Horribly Right.


    Crashed due to popularity 

Live Action TV... on the internet
  • While most promotions had problems when Internet pay per view became the hot new thing, few had as many as Ring of Honor in 2012, where several pay per views froze, lost audio synch, slowed down or crashed because too many people were viewing them at once. After prompting Sinclair for more money (so they could settle the issue), Sinclair decided to shoot a show just prove it could now handle the traffic, unfortunately they gave away this show for free, which lead to an even larger number of viewers and another crash.
  • This happened to STV (The Scottish version of ITV, the UK's main commercial television network) when it failed to anticipate the demand for the livestream of a debate about the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence after ITV itself decided not to show it outside Scotland itself. The servers couldn't cope with the demand from English, Welsh and Northern Irish viewers who understandably wished to see a debate that could help decide whether Scotland leaves the UK. STV were heavily criticised for failing to anticipate the demand and criticism intensified after it was learned both the BBC (the UK's public service broadcaster) and Sky (the UK's largest satellite/cable broadcaster) had offered to simulcast the debate so everyone else in the UK could see it only to be turned down by STV who wished to retain exclusive broadcast rights. Some wags suggested the failure of STV to manage the situation well was an harbinger of how Scotland would fare if it left the UK.

Video Games
  • Diablo IIIís disastrous launch was a particularly infamous example of this, because even people who just wanted to play the single player campaign could not play because of the required internet connection.
  • Broswer game Flight Rising launched expecting a small userbase, and was immediately flooded with thousands of new users upon the site being opened to the public. This proved to be far too much for the servers to bear, and the site would frequently crash during any high-traffic period following the site opening, particularly after content updates.
  • Katawa Shoujo's download server went down within seconds of release. Fortunately, the developers thought ahead and prepared torrent files.
  • The 2013 SimCity is best known for its server crash at release that prevented the game from being played. Although in this case it was because of poor server design. It's gone down in history as a massive failure of a publisher to anticipate user needs, rather than an unexpected rush on established bandwidth service.
  • When crowdsourcing opened for Star Citizen in October 2012, the custom-built website collapsed under the server load, costing Chris Roberts' project the early momentum. After they got the site working again a couple days later, they added a Kickstarter to make up for lost time.
  • Fanmade tributes to Super Smash Bros. are particularly prone to this, as the servers are usually managed out of pocket and are not built to handle a large amount of demand.
    • The Project M 3.0 update release kept suffering server crashes due to not only impatient fans, but large amounts of passionately casual Super Smash Bros. Brawl players attempting to purposely DDoS the release. Said server crashes interrupted and cancelled the upload multiple times. The initial download eventually had to be mirrored to file hosting site Mediafire so it could have a chance to be released at all until the initial hype relaxed enough to get the site stabilized.
    • Super Smash Flash 2 has suffered from this on numerous occasions on every major demo release stretching back to at least v0.7. The fact that it's prone to Schedule Slip anyway doesn't help.
  • The launch of Worldof Warcraftís fifth expansion, Warlords of Draenor, was plagued by unstable servers, latency issues and massive login queues. There were several causes for this, but the primary one was the huge numbers of people trying to log in at the same time and bottlenecking in the same zone. In the words of a Community Manager:
    We obviously expected an increase in logins, and prepared for well above what we were expecting. The actual amount is far above even that.

Web Comics
  • Girl Genius did it to themselves, and it takes a bit of explaining. Basically, it started off as a print comic. When the Foglios turned it into a webcomic, they had two different archives updating at the same time: the "101 archive" where they digitized the original print run, and the "advanced class archive", where they continued the story where the print run left off. In July 2007, the 101 archive caught up with the beginning of the advanced class archive. The volume of readers archive binging the advanced archive was enough to crash the comic's server.
  • Homestuck has "brought down the house" on several occasions, particularly with its Flash updates.
    • [S] Cascade, the finale of Act 5, is the definite record-holder so far. It was hosted on Newgrounds of all websites— and the traffic crashed the site about three minutes after!
  • The Order of the Stick used to slow to a halt whenever a new comic was posted, though this was mostly because of all the people hitting the forums.
  • The first page of Jeph Jacques' new comic killed the servers for his original comic, Questionable Content, and the new one.
  • The last page of Pascalle Lepas' webcomic Zap! killed the servers for it.

Web Original
  • The Brewing Network had a huge influx of downloads the last time Lunch Meet was uploaded, disrupting download of the shows that make money, to the amazement of Justin. the BN in general has download limits, with Justin pointing out that the daily limit is greater than 24 hours of content so people hitting 'download all' should calm down.
  • This happened when Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog came out.
  • This has happened a lot in the past to Dragon Cave during new releases and/or holidays.
  • iTunes servers crashed on Christmas and Boxing Day the year the iTunes gift cards were introduced due to so many getting them as gifts and trying to use them immediately. People were calling their ISPs trying to figure out why they couldn't get to this one site in particular, thinking it was their internet service.
  • When Mark started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on his Mark Watches site, the onslaught of Buffy fans broke the server multiple times before Mark had to get a new one to accommodate for them.
  • Netflix still has bandwidth problems due to the popularity of their streaming service.
  • The Simpsonize Me website (is that even still up?) that was launched in co-occurence with the Big Damn Simpsons Movie saw so much traffic during its early life on the internet that it frequently saw downtime. The fact that the site also utilized high-quality animated graphics didn't help either.
  • Mozilla's servers went down due to the volume of people downloading Firefox 3 when it came out.
  • This happened when German gaming blog did a walkthrough of Deadly Premonition. After approximately 10 parts had been uploaded, the walkthrough became so popular that every new uploaded part made the site unresponsive for hours.
  • TV Tropes nearly ran into this during The Situation.

    Crashed due to a Colbert Bump / the Slashdot effect 
  • Anything Notch tweets. Seriously, that man is a walking DDOS waiting to happen. He tends to tweet about upcoming indie games, I think the count of sites he's brought down just by mentioning them is in the triple digits at this point.
  • On some parts of Twitter it's called #neilwebfail, because it'll happen to any site Neil Gaiman says you should look at. Stephen Fry can have the same effect.
    • Indeed, Stephen Fry said in an interview that he warns people when they ask him to push their website, as most such sites are unable to handle the traffic his mentioning would bring.
  • Back in the fall of 2010, before Minecraft was as massively popular as it is now, Penny Arcade made a two-part strip about Gabe playing the game, and linked to the game's website in the news post. Thousands of readers proceeded to bombard the site. Even after traffic died down a bit, the authorization servers were completely nuked, so Notch declared it a free weekend just to avoid processing so many logins.

    Physical copy ran out of stock 
  • Toy example: When The BBC began re-running Thunderbirds in 1992 (after it had been off the air for several years) stores quickly sold out of Tracy Island toys. As a compromise, Blue Peter came up with a build-it-yourself version.
  • Woodstock was provisioned for less than 50,000 but they sold 100,000 tickets. Then another 400,000 people showed up. The promoters begged the locals to make sandwiches so the concertgoers wouldn't starve and the US National Guard airlifted food in.
  • The type of toy popularity as seen in Jingle All the Way is based on toys like Cabbage Patch Dolls and Tickle Me Elmo becoming the hot toy in demand. Toy companies seek reactions like this.

    In-Universe Examples 
Comic Books
  • When Spider-Man publicly revealed his secret identity, the internet broke down because too many people were trying to do a name search on "Peter Parker" simultaneously.

Fan Fiction
  • From An Entry With A Bang: Five minutes after the pirates' departure, the video of their jump was on YouTube. Less than an hour later, YouTube crashed due to the sheer number of users trying to accessing this one video on the website.

  • The Social Network establishes that the early incarnation of Facebook was a basic "Attractiveness Rating" web site piggybacking on Harvard servers, which was so unexpectedly popular it crashed the servers.
  • Toy Story 2 mentions that, when the Buzz Lightyear action figures originally came out, "short-sighted retailers" underestimated just how big the demand would be, and the initial run completely sold out in a few days. By the present, stores like Al's Toy Barn have caught up with demand by devoting an entire aisle to Buzz Lightyear.

Live-Action Television
  • The Big Bang Theory: Penny starts a small business making hair barrettes called "Penny Blossoms." The guys set up a website for her and an order comes in for 1,000, rush overnight delivery. The guys help her out making them all night. Then after they're done they find that the orignal order has been doubled.
  • In the penultimate episode (technically the Grand Finale) of Drake & Josh, Drake's song was set to be put into a Super Bowl commercial but due to a contract mistake was horribly altered electronically. Josh managed to switch the tapes that were going to be mixed into the commercial, and they were set to be sued for the illegal action. But the CEO said the original song was a massive hit, breaking their servers and ended up firing the Producer who tried to manipulate a hit song.
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