It’s interesting to me to see how different publishers are handling this still relatively new digital game world. Many have stuck their toe in the effectual water then scampered off because they felt it was too cold. Newcomers and small-fries have braved uncharted waters to find that they have success. Some have even dedicated much of their workforce to re-publishing their golden games from yesteryear. But why do some publishers still have a fear of the inexpensive digital market (XBLA, PSN, etc)? I’m not sure, but I have a few words for a handful of publishers–some of praise, some of pleading.
LucasArts – What happened to you guys? Up until ~2005 you rocked the house with every game released. Now there seems to be this struggle for identity–for finding the “new” LucasArts (I’m looking at you, Star Wars 1313). That’s all well and good, but you’re neglecting your bread and butter. We know Star Wars Battlefront III (SWBF3) was dropped, but regardless of the reason you’re letting a major cash cow sit out to pasture. Maybe I’m speaking out of turn, but even if SWBF3 had been over budget and spent time in development hell it still would have made money. A lot of money. It’s the kind of game that would have convinced someone to buy two copies, just so they could pass one along to a broke friend. Check YouTube for goodness sakes. A video (pulled by LucasArts) containing one hour of the canned Free Radical version gained 300k+ hits in two days. Two days! Do you not read your forums, or plug into the internet at all? We want Battlefront III.
But let’s set that aside. Why aren’t you re-releasing your back catalog digitally? Battlefront, Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy, Episode I Racer, the X-Wing series, Jedi Power Battles, even the non-Star Wars title Grim Fandango — all of these are just begging for re-release. Maybe it’s the suits that don’t actually play video games holding things back. If that’s the case then let me break it down real simple-like: code ports of these games require smaller teams, which means lower cost. Lower costs mean you turn a profit faster, especially if there are no upgrades to the art assets (which should be at the discretion of the individual team working on a given game). What’s that? You tried XBLA? Yeah, Lucidity, doesn’t count, especially when your “big reveal” got folks hoping it was a new Battlefront. The Monkey Island games were done well, I’ll admit, but in the end adventure games are now a niche genre. You can’t look at those as a mark of whether the platform is successful.
Activision – Why are you afraid of digital distribution, and for that matter where is my Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force re-release? Sure, you’ve tried a few times with games like Vigilante 8: Arcade, but let’s be honest, you knew better with that one. People want sequels and remakes to feel totally familiar–from gameplay to characters to locales. V8 Arcade, while not awful, didn’t give us any of those things. The next time you tackle that franchise either re-release Interstate 76′ or combine the I-76 and V8 characters (same franchise) and give us a Vigilante 8 with more substance and familiarity. But if you’re really looking for what people want think more Call of Duty: Classic. That was exactly what players wanted–the original game in a franchise they’re currently playing. You seem to be getting the big picture, though, as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is shaping up to be a million-seller.
Sega – Bless you and your little blue hedgehog. You realize that your golden age was in the past. That’s not to say you’re incapable of making great games now–far from it in fact. What it means is that you know people want to play your back catalog again. They want to play Genesis (Mega Drive), Saturn and Dreamcast hits again without having to dig their consoles out of the attic. You’ve listened. You’ve given us Crazy Taxi, Alex Kidd, Altered Beast, Streets of Rage, Daytona USA and almost every classic Sonic title (we’re still waiting for Sonic Adventure 2). You’ve even gone so far as to create new games such as Sonic 4 in the digital realm. You understand that there’s money to be made in inexpensive digital gaming, and what’s more you’re bringing happiness to your fans around the world. Just give us Shenmue and Sonic Adventure 2 and we’ll be content. Thank you.
EA – You know what would help salvage the “Worst Company in America” image? Smaller, digitally-released games. Sure, you’ve given us NBA Jam: On Fire Edition and NFL Blitz and Battlefield 1943, and we give you a heartfelt thanks for that. But there are still so many great games you’re missing out on. We know Spare Parts didn’t do so well, but don’t take that as a reason to stick only to sports games. If it’s a quality game people tend to go ahead and drop the points. Spare Parts just wasn’t that great. But there are a lot of franchises you can still cash in on while making consumers happy. Give us Def Jam: Fight for New York, for example. It’s an amazing game (unlike Def Jam Icon) and it would need nothing more than a code port. How about a re-release of 007: Nightfire with online play? Cel Damage? Ty the Tasmanian Tiger? Re-make or re-release there are a lot of great titles from the 90’s and 2000’s that we’d pay good money for.
And let’s not forget that in general there are a lot of great games waiting for a publisher to give them a home on XBLA. Games like Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath have the developers fully behind them, yet get passed up for inexplicable reasons. And on other fronts development teams are getting disbanded, split, and shut down. Why not take those teams and put them to work porting older games and working on fresh new XBLA titles? They keep their jobs, you as a company get the money, and we gladly drop our hard earned coin on games we love.