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Demand Overload

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On that day, millions of Diablo fans developed a fear of the number 37.
"Our servers are experiencing issues. Please come back later."
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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.

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 demand hugely overwhelms supply is backordered.

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. With physical items, the problem can come from scalpers who buy up the product to resell at a markup, in addition to the regular demand from customers who actually want the product.

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


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Crashed due to popularity 

Anime and Manga... on the internet

  • This used to happen more frequently on Twitter in its first several years because of Japan's big userbase; even now anime topics sometimes surge high there as trending tags.
  • During the 2013 airing of Castle in the Sky on NTV, Twitter crashed when fans tried to post the word "Balse!" at the same time it was said in the movie.
    • Similarly, Twitter experienced high demand levels when NTV broadcast My Neighbor Totoro on August 14, 2020.
  • The release of episodes 109, 110, and 130 of Dragon Ball Super crashed Crunchyroll's website. All three of these episodes, perhaps unsurprisingly, have Goku using Ultra Instinct and fighting Jiren.
    • This also happened to Crunchyroll when episode 87 of Black Clover was released.
  • When the Toei Animation website for Star★Twinkle Pretty Cure opened up, the Toei Animation site for the series crashed from people trying to see the info about the new series.
    • The airing of the 11th episode of Healin' Good♡Pretty Cure, which features the Cures performing a new trio finisher, caused Twitter to crash during the scene said moment happened.
  • When the Grand Finale of Yuri!!! on Ice's first season came out, the servers for anime streaming sites, Tumblr, and Crunchyroll crashed.
  • The release of the trailer for the last season of Attack on Titan crashed Twitter for two hours. And then the actual premiere of the last season caused several sites that the show was being hosted on, including Crunchyroll, to crash.

Animated Films... on the Internet

Live-Action Films... on the internet

  • Ticket pre-sales for Avengers: Endgame caused multiple ticket sites to either crash or slow down. To give a perspective on this, the film was able to claim the highest box office pre-sales record in six hours.
  • After the announcement trailer for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker went live, Twitter crashed for a few minutes.
    • The release of the first real trailer for the movie also caused several sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even AT&T's own cell service, to crash for a few minutes from too many people trying to watch it.
      • A similar "cell service went down" crash occured when Shane Dawson posted a video apologizing for activities he had done in the past, but with AT&T's cell service.
  • Another Twitter trailer example: The release of the first trailer for Jungle Cruise on March 10, 2020 note  caused the site to go down for 5 minutes.

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 decided to give away the show for free, which led to an even larger number of viewers and another crash.
  • This happened to STV (the Scottish version of ITV, the United Kingdom'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 United Kingdom. STV were heavily criticized for failing to anticipate the demand and criticism intensified after it was learned that both the BBC (the United Kingdom's public service broadcaster) and Sky (the United Kingdom'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 United Kingdom.
  • Inverted with the unsubscribe feature of the WWE Network, which stopped working after the 2015 Royal Rumble because too many people were trying to unsubscribe from the network due to the event naming match angering people so much.
  • EVOLVE's website crashed when it announced Sami Zayn was returning to the promotion in October, with hype dying away when people learned he wasn't working in any capacity, he was just sitting in the audience. In fact, WWE only let him attend on the promise he would not show up on camera during the event.
  • After Luke Cage (2016) went live on Netflix, there was so much demand for the series that the site crashed, Netflix responded with a few humorous, Luke Cage related tweets while they worked to get their servers back up and running.
  • Season 7 of Game of Thrones led to HBO Now failing for half the opener, and the Latin American arm of HBO Go (which is not simulcast, but an on demand service that would thus only get the episode after the broadcast was over!) also crashed.
  • Hulu crashed when the second episode of Live in Front of a Studio Audience and the second season of Killing Eve were added. It's justified for the former show creating so much demand, as the original broadcast was interrupted for breaking news, and fans of the shows featured in that special presumably wanted to watch it a second time without interruptions.
  • Disney+ crashed for 10 minutes on February 19, 2021, due to too many people trying to watch the seventh episode of WandaVision.

Music... on the internet

  • Jean-Michel Jarre's 2004 double concert in Beijing was his first to be transmitted via Web stream. The Chinese TV company set up several servers for this purpose. Unfortunately, they underestimated the legions of Jarre fans around the world who wanted to watch the concerts...
  • Any news related to BTS tends to cause websites to crash due to the group's immense popularity and their huge overlap with social media users. For example, when concert tickets went on sale for their Love Yourself tour, the official website went down from too many fans trying to buy tickets. Another notable incident involved Twitter nearly crashing when the group appeared at the Billboard Music Awards. At one point they even tried to crash Twitter with this photo, which didn't happen at all.
    • This popularity is also mentioned in the segment of their Bring The Soul movie that uses "Anpanman" as background music. The person who took their picture mentions that Twitter has high demand because of people anticipating their appearance at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards, which is when said part of the film takes place.
  • The first two editions of Lollapalooza Brazil had people struggling to buy tickets once the sales begun given the website crashed repeatedly while they waited for their turn.
  • The ticket sales for Harry Styles' first tour in 2020 were so high in demand that it caused Ticketmaster and Facebook to go down, the latter of which happened because fans stormed to complain about the former.

Video Games

  • Diablo III’s 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. The most common login error, Error 37, even became a trending topic on Twitter.
  • Browser game Flight Rising launched in 2013 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. It's for this reason that registration was closed soon after launch, with registration only opening a few times per year until it was finally opened permanently in 2018.
  • 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. Like Diablo III, a constant connection to the server was a requirement, even in single-player. The backlash was exacerbated by the traditionally single-player only game moving to an always-online format.
  • 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 0.7. The fact that it's prone to Schedule Slip anyway doesn't help.
  • The launch of World of Warcraft’s 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.
  • Xbox Live tends to experience horrific server load, and some years outright outages that last for days, around Christmas time, as millions of people find new consoles under their trees and connect them to the online service for the first time all at once.
  • Final Fantasy XIV when it was relaunched in 2.0 had suffered massive congestion from everyone trying to log in to play the game. The problem persisted for weeks and it got so bad that Square-Enix disabled the ability to buy a digital copy of the game and had to optimize the servers to handle the huge loads of players. Square apologized and gave everyone one free week of game time. While they managed to make the launch of the Heavensward expansion relatively painless, the launch of Stormblood nearly mirrored the chaotic shenanigans of 2.0's launch where players either lagged/disconnected or couldn't progress in the main story because a solo battle related to it couldn't be started due to the instanced servers being overwhelmed.
  • Super Smash Bros.:
    • When the Ryu DLC for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U was released, the Nintendo eShop ended up crashing.
    • On Christmas Day, 2018, so many people tried to download Super Smash Bros. Ultimate at once that many reported having to wait up to 6 hours before the download finished.
    • Double subverted when people tried to download Joker: initially, the Nintendo servers weren't dying from everyone trying to get Joker all at the same time, but from server maintenance that was scheduled right as the update went live. But as soon server maintenance ended (10 pm EDT), the server outage issues came out in full force with only a handful of lucky people managing to download the update just as the scheduled maintenance came to an end.
    • The Nintendo Direct on March 26, 2020, which revealed the addition of a character from ARMS to Smash Bros Ultimate, was watched by so many people that it wound up crashing YouTube. As a response, the Nintendo YouTube channel put up the Direct on their channel for the people who missed it.
    • The announcement of Steve/Alex on October 1, 2020 caused such an intense reaction that it crashed Twitter for several minutes.
  • Pokémon GO was so stupendously high-demand that millions of players found themselves facing a server overload error message way more than they would actually play the game for the first day or two, even though the game was only available in select territories at launch (see the quote at the top of this page). The same happened when Niantic had the brilliant idea to release the game in 26 countries at once.
  • When Pokemon Bank initially launched in Japan on Christmas 2013 (itself not the best decision on Nintendo's part), Nintendo's 3DS eShop servers got completely crippled (to the point that the entire shop was down for four days) by the larger number of people creating Nintendo Network IDs, which in turn caused Bank to be temporarily pulled from the Japanese eShop, and its release in other regions to be delayed over a month.
  • Arcaea ended up being an unexpected hit at launch, causing the servers to undergo maintenance and thus preventing players from creating accounts or purchasing additional songs until the issue was fixed.
  • When Splatoon 2 was released on the Nintendo Switch's eShop, it became temporarily unavailable due to so many people trying to download it at once.
    • While the eShop itself remained stable thanks to a majority of players pre-ordering the expansion pack, the release of the game's Octo Expansion DLC caused Nintendo's distribution servers to slow to a crawl, resulting in very fast connections taking hours to download the content.
  • This has happened to Fate/Grand Order a few times due to the timed nature of events and rerollers and account sellers trying to get the new Servants as quickly as possible, with the most infamous occurrence being the Halloween 2015 event as the timed battles for event currency, everyone trying to log on to play the event as fast as possible combined with the heavily hyped Tamamo gacha crashed the game within an hour. To prevent this, DelightWorks has been cracking down on rerollers and account sellers and post-the Fate/Zero crossover, the game's managed to avoid these problems, though during particularly popular or intense events the game can sometimes have intermittent connection issues as the now-gargantuan userbase DDoSes the servers and their ISP by fiat; Summer 2017 was a good example of this. This currently only applies to the Japanese version as the Chinese, Taiwanese, and American versions have all displayed a lot more stability, if only because they have fewer players on their servers and the Japanese version tends to be used as the "measuring-stick" for what precautions should be taken with the other ones.
  • After the music video for the instrumental version of the opening theme for Sakura Wars (2019) was uploaded on YouTube, fan demand caused the link to crash for a few minutes.
  • Famously, the first Pong machine set up in public stopped working a few days thereafter, due to being clogged with coins.
  • The sheer hype for Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord meant that when the game was finally released on Steam on 31 March 2020, Steam, already having demand problems due to COVID-19 making people stay at home and play more games, had its Shopping Cart crash due to the sheer amount of people trying to buy Bannerlord.
  • Ninjala's Open Beta ended up getting so much traffic on its first day that most people could barely even play without getting some kind of error message. It got so bad that GungHo had to take the servers down for emergency maintenance. Three times.
  • When the Epic Games Store offered Grand Theft Auto V for free for a week starting on May 14th, 2020, their website quickly crashed due to sheer demand. Additionally, the email verification sending servers crashed the following day, which caused many to be unable to even play it due to requiring being in Rockstar's Social Club to do so, which in turn requires a verified email.
  • When it went free-to-play in July 2020, it became very difficult to find a match of Fantasy Strike, let alone play through one, without being disconnected due to the large number of new players. The issues were fixed two days later.
  • Shortly after Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes' crowdfunding campaign was launched on Kickstarter, it became so popular that the site suffered a 20-30 minute outage due to the sheer number of people pledging to the campaign at once.
  • Matchmaking for Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout had to be shut down for several hours so the servers could be improved after releasing on PlayStation 4. The devs apparently didn't foresee how big the impact having the game be one of the free PS Plus titles would be.
  • The release of the Geofront translation patch of The Legend of Heroes: Zero no Kiseki caused the website's server to completely implode under the stress.

Web Comics

  • The creators of Girl Genius did it to themselves, and it takes a bit of explaining. Basically, it started off as a print comic, and 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 in about three minutes. Someone proceeded to put the flash on Livestream so people could view it, but that site also crashed. People tried to post it on Tumblr, but that site crashed very quickly.
      @andrewhussie: well, that didn't work
    • There was plenty of concern among fans that [S] Collide and [S] Act 7, the series Grand Finale, would do this to an even greater extent. Hussie averted any problems by hosting the "flash animations" on YouTube, which is far more capable of handling that kind of load.
    • And even that wasn't the end of it, as the fandom managed to crash Google Drive streaming on the day of the Epilogues release in 2019.
  • 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 both his original comic, Questionable Content, and the new one.
  • The last page of Pascalle Lepas' webcomic Zap! killed the servers for it.

Western Animation

  • Steven Universe is the king of this trope as far as animated shows go. Social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr will usually crash when any major piece of news pertaining to the show is announced:
    • When new episodes of Steven Universe for the fourth Steven Bomb was announced, the site that revealed it was immediately overloaded by fans and its servers crashed. One of the show's former producers made a post leading to a different article so others can view the news.
    • On October 30th, 2017, when it was announced that Steven Universe would be coming back (on the CN App) on November 10th, Tumblr's servers crashed from too many excited fans.
    • It also happened when Steven Universe: The Movie was announced at the show's 2018 San Diego Comic-Con panel, with both Twitter and Tumblr experiencing temporary downtime as a result of fans posting their reactions to the news.

    Crashed due to a Colbert Bump / the Slashdot effect 
  • Among Us had a massive surge of new players after being referenced in the Henry Stickmin Series, the amount of players joining caused the servers to reach its capacity, preventing players from joining or creating new games. Originally the creators decided to make a sequel to overcome this before deciding to stay with the original for better servers and new content.
  • Anything Notch tweets. Seriously, that man is a walking DDoS waiting to happen.
  • 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.
    • This isn't the first time Penny Arcade has caused this, either. The site's slang for it is "wanging the server".
  • During the 2014 Oscars, Ellen DeGeneres took a picture with several other celebs and posted it on Twitter, while urging viewers to make it the most retweeted photo of all time. Sure enough, the pic was retweeted over 3 million times and within half an hour Twitter crashed.
  • At one point The Cynical Brit tweeted his Star Trek Online build from the STO Academy fansite. The website crashed under the load shortly afterward.
  • Multiple entrepreneurs who have appeared on Dragons' Den/Shark Tank have mentioned that demand for their product spiked after getting exposure on the show. A few unprepared or unlucky ones have had their website crash on them thanks to this.
  • Proving this isn't new on the internet, once Howard Stern surfed Rotten.com live in 1996 during his radio show, traffic spiked so much the site spent days off the air.
    • Coast to Coast AM had this effect as well in the early days of the Internet. As both Art Bell and a good number of his listeners were early adopters, any time a guest gave out his website, the demand overload would often cause the site to either slow down to a crawl or crash entirely. This continued until the mid-2000s, when most sites could handle the attention.
  • It's not uncommon for any site linked to by Penny Arcade to go down due to the massive number of fans the comic has checking the link out.
    Tycho: Putting up a link is actually considered a hostile act by some comics. The bandwidth drain our readership - well, you, I guess - can place on a site is almost indistinguishable (at first) from a Denial Of Service attack.
  • After All Elite Wrestling gave the link to their Internet store during the Brodie Lee [In Memoriam Tribute Show]] and showed the shirt they were selling as a fundraiser for Brodie's family, the webstore crashed from the influx of shoppers and ran slowly for the rest of the night. Fittingly, the shirt was the webstore's top seller, breaking the record recently set by Sting's new AEW shirt.

    Physical copy ran out of stock 

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

Music

  • Woodstock was provisioned for less than 50,000, but they sold 100,000 tickets. Then 400,000 more people showed up. The promoters begged the locals to make sandwiches so the concertgoers wouldn't starve and the U.S. National Guard airlifted food in.
  • This happened twice to Nirvana. The first was when Nevermind became an unexpected success and sold out due to Geffen Records underestimating demand. Copies of Nirvana's albums also sold out after Kurt Cobain died.

Tabletop Games

  • After the game Tsuro was featured on Tabletop, demand was so high that the publisher exhausted all stock reserves.
    • The crowning example of the Tabletop Effect has to be the insane Cthulhu-meets-Scrabble game Unspeakable Words, which vanished entirely from every single retailer within a week of the episode's airing, except for ONE scalper on Amazon trying to charge $200+ for a $30 game. Thankfully a Kickstarter for a new deluxe edition should soon be remedying the issue... just short of two years after the episode hit.
  • The original edition of Dungeons & Dragons had a first run of 1,000 copies. It sold out within weeks.
  • Magic: The Gathering suffered from supply shortages with every base set up to and including Revised as well as with the first four expansions.
  • Beginning in the summer of 2020, Pokémon cards kept selling out at various retailers across the United States. It got to the point where when McDonald's ran a promotion with exclusive trading cards being offered for the 25th anniversary of the franchise, the cards sold out at most locations in a day.

Toys

  • This famously happened in the U.K. when The BBC began a re-run of Thunderbirds in 1992 (the first time it had ever been simulcast nationally), demand for Tracy Island toys outstripped supply. Blue Peter helpfully gave instructions for building a home-made version, the video release of which ran out in minutes. Hell, forget the video, demand was such that there was a huge lead time in receiving a paper copy of the instructions from the BBC (bear in mind, this was before Internet access was widespread).
  • The type of toy popularity as seen in Jingle All the Way is based on toys like Cabbage Patch Kids and Tickle Me Elmo becoming the hot toy in demand. Toy companies seek reactions like this.
  • When Mobile Suit Gundam Wing first aired in the US on Cartoon Network, Bandai's supply of model kits for the show got exhausted.
  • Although sales for Frozen toys were initially at or below expectations, the word of mouth that gave it box office legs not seen in years also caused massive merchandise shortages, which didn't fully meet demand until over a year later. Official Cosplay Gear for Breakout Character Elsa were going for massive markups on the resale market.
  • Many kids got IOUs instead of Star Wars toys in the 1970s, because back then, movie toys were given small runs, and the company in question got completely overwhelmed.
  • This happened to Yo Kai Watch toys in Japan. For an entire year, fans had to queue in line to get a chance to enter a raffle to purchase the medals and watches.
  • On July 12, 2018, Build A Bear Workshops held a "Pay Your Age Day" event, meaning that people under 29 could only pay the amount of their age for a bear. Because it was such a great deal since Build A Bears usually cost a ton of money (basic bears range from $15-$25, but the sound chip and clothing can increase the cost to around $50), many families waited up to 10 hours in line to buy a bear. Because of the demand, some stores ran out of stuffing and invited customers to come back another day to stuff the bear, while others were not allowed into the line and were given coupons.
  • If something is going to be attractive enough to the Bronies, you'd better stock up enough of it.
    • At San Diego Comic Con, Hasbro always keeps selling exclusive goodies from several of their franchises. In 2012, that was a large brushable figurine of Derpy Hooves (albeit only named with a muffin), the first ever official product based on her. While all the other items remained on stock for days, Derpy sold out within less than 15 minutes.
    • Also in 2012, plushies were becoming all the rage, but official, mass-produced plushies weren't in sight yet, let alone in a decent quality. The only sources for pony plushies were creative fans. Two of them decided to make a number of plushies to sell at 2012 GalaCon in Stuttgart, Germany. The availability of plushies was announced in advance. Naturally, dozens of Bronies decided to not attend the opening ceremony and lined up outside the still closed door to the vendor room that was guarded by convention security (also because the room was so small that only six potential customers were allowed inside at a time) and waited for it to open. After the vendor room was officially opened, it took eleven minutes until the last plushie was sold.
  • This is the reason for Tamagotchi's early fall from grace in the 90's. Bandai initially only produced the toys in small amounts, not anticipating that they'd become a big fad overnight. Thankfully, they did manage to produce more... but only after the fad started to die out, thus leaving the company's finances rather dire. Ironically, it's a 2004 revival of the very same toy series that got them out of that financial slump.

Video Games

  • Nintendo has dealt with this more than once. They've gained a reputation as being notoriously conservative when it comes to sales estimates (especially right after they've had underperforming hardware like the Nintendo GameCube or the Wii U that they overproduced), so they'll end up underproducing initially and then ramp up production once they know for sure that the demand is there.
    • NES-era cart shortages were frequent, particularly for hot new games, since a limited amount of copies could be pressed monthly. There were actual news reports of parents driving out of state just to get copies of Super Mario Bros. 2 and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
    • The Wii was constantly sold out from its launch until late-2008, only to have yet another temporary shortage with the release of New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
    • amiibo figures, especially during 2014 and 2015. Big-name characters like Mario and Link were planned to always be available, but more obscure ones are given limited production runs and quickly run out. Scalpers were a major problem, and the whole thing was exacerbated by a months-long port strike that held up shipments for some time, cutting into the supply even more. Demand finally stabilized about a year after launch, though a few characters remained rare for some time.
      • Crossing over into the "computer crash" category, the preorders for the April 2015 wave of figures brought down GameStop. Not just the website, but the entire system, including the cash registers.
      • 2017 saw a resurgence when The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was released, sending demand for Zelda amiibo through the roof - not just new ones released for the game, but ones that had been available for months or even years already.
    • The NES Classic Edition was released in November 2016 and sold out worldwide. The products sold out in mere seconds on websites like Amazon and GameStop. The SNES Classic Edition suffered a similar fate the following year.
    • The Nintendo Switch was this for its first year on the market in the West and continued to remain this in Japan for even longer, with Amazon Japan tending to run out of pre-orders in just 15 minutes and physical retailers are regularly cleaned out of their stock within hours at most.
    • Back in 2012, when Xenoblade finally saw its North American release, it was given an extremely limited run by GameStop prompting this to happen. However, because GameStop controlled the stock, this was intentional - since they started selling used copies (as well as "used" copies that were in fact brand new copies) for a $20+ markup.
    • The Super Smash Bros.-themed Nintendo GameCube controller and adapter released alongside Super Smash Bros. for Wii U sold out almost immediately after the game's release, and weren't restocked at all until they were re-released alongside Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, only to sell out almost immediately again. Somewhat subverted in that there are third-party alternatives available for both (albeit without Smash branding in the case of the former), as well as original Nintendo GameCube controllers being perfectly usable if you have them.
    • When Super Nintendo Entertainment System controllers were released for the Nintendo Switch, not only did Google crash due to people trying to find the link to buy them, but they also sold out pretty fast.
    • As a result of COVID-19 forcing people to stay at home in the early months of 2020, copies of Ring Fit Adventure saw a massive spike in sales, up to the point where it was sold out in multiple retail establishments. There were even people who hiked up the price for more than double the original price.
    • When CoroCoro Comic put out download codes for exclusive Splatoon 2 gear based on Team Emperor from Hinodeya Sankichi's manga, issues quickly ran out of stock.
  • This article notes that Disney Infinity had this problem with its first installment, as numerous figures were extremely difficult to find in stores (Such as strong and/or popular characters like Violet Parr, Jack Skellington, and Apprentice Mickey). This lead to the company releasing a much higher number of figures for the second installment. Unfortunately, this backfired as they wound up making too many for people to buy, leading to a massive inventory write-up that ultimately played a factor into the series's cancellation.
  • Legend has it that Space Invaders was so popular when it came out that it caused, or threatened to cause, a shortage of 100-yen coins.
  • When Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors was released in Japan, it was a commercial failure, only selling about 40,000 copies. When the game was translated into English, similar sales figures were anticipated. Due to an unexpected case of Germans Love David Hasselhoff, retailers regularly ran out of stock and had to actively request additional copies.
  • The physical copies of Octopath Traveler sold out entirely in Japan during the game's launch weekend, and the restock a few weeks later sold out within three hours. Over in America, Amazon ended up backordered with a two-month wait, and a number of other stores ran out of their stock as well. During the game's first few months on the market, the creators even encouraged customers to consider getting the digital version instead in case they didn't feel like waiting for more physical copies to be made.
  • According to Electronic Gaming Monthly's October 1994 issue, only 3,000 copies of the UFO Kamen Yakisoban video game were made originally, as it was a lottery prize. Nissin received so many entries that it became a full retail release.
  • After Valve announced a VR-only Half-Life game after a lengthy Sequel Gap, namely Half-Life: Alyx, all VR headsets commercially available sold out in a matter of weeks, and were backordered to the point that purchasing one at random wasn't be feasible until months after the game was released.
  • StepManiaX stages, which are compatible with the game itself, as well as other 4-panel dance games like Dance Dance Revolution and In the Groove (another game worked on by Kyle Ward, one of the staff on the SMX team) and Pump It Up are known for their extremely high build quality, causing them to constantly be in demand. A few hundred are made per batch and they manage to sell out within seconds each time.
  • After the success of the 2020 version of Microsoft Flight Simulator, flight stick peripherals were often reported to be sold out in many stores.
  • During the COVID-19 Pandemic, the video game industry in general saw both a massive spike in sales due to many turning to gaming as a source of entertainment during the outbreak, as well as slowed hardware production as a result of several Chinese consumer electronic manufacturing plants shutting down to prevent spread. As a result, getting any console — be it the Nintendo Switch around the time Animal Crossing: New Horizons released early that year, or the new PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S consoles that launched later that year — proved to be an arduous task.

Others

  • When McDonald's had a one-day event in October 2017 where they gave away Szechuan Sauce at select locations to ride on Rick and Morty making it The Red Stapler, fans of the show visited participating locations, with many leaving empty-handed as McDonald's did not have enough sauce for the amount of people who turned up. This lead to fans protesting and, in a few cases, the police being called.
  • When a re-release of New Coke was announced on the Coca Cola website, fans of Stranger Things crashed the Coke webstore trying to pre-order the drink. Pre-orders were put on halt as a result, but they returned a few days later.
  • Popeye's chicken sandwich became an instant hit, to the point where it was common for stores to run out of chicken sandwiches before they close for the day. The demand was so serious that someone got fatally stabbed over it.
  • Fan Conventions, particularly the larger ones, often outgrow their venues, resulting in having to move to larger venues to keep up with demand or limit how many attendees can be in the venue at any one time. San Diego Comic-Con has had this issue for decades, resulting in a cap on how many tickets can be sold, while Anime Expo started having to enforce building maximum occupancies in 2013. Both conventions use the largest possible venues in California (the San Diego Convention Center for SDCC and the Los Angeles Convention Center for AX).
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    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 access this one video on the website.

Film

  • 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. This is also a reference to the real-life shortage of actual Buzz Lightyear figures, which even had searchers resorting to the black market.
  • Jingle All the Way is all about parents trying to get the hot new sold-out toy of the year. As noted above, it's based on the demand that existed for some real toys (including the real Buzz Lightyear toys).

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 original 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.

Urban Legends

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • A Phineas and Ferb episode features a demand overload over an embarrassing videotape of Doofenshmirtz getting his face stuck in a toilet.

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