Midway: Ready for its close-up

Streak of quarterly losses doesn't faze CEO; company is beefing up with star power for battle in next-gen, expects great things in 2007.

LOS ANGELES--Throughout the early portion of the year, most third-party game publishers like to flaunt their upcoming wares for the year and give a basic overview of the company's strategy for the future. These details are usually shown to the press and invited guests in events that range from button-down affairs to lavish spectacles.

Midway Games is no exception to the rule, and held its press event last night at The House of Blues in Los Angeles, on the famous Sunset Strip. Attendees were herded into a rectangular room with a bar on one of the long sides. The buzz built as people literally rubbed elbows, and after nearly 15 minutes, the bar began to move.

Splitting down the middle, the libation station swung outwards like a slow-motion saloon door in the Old West. The "room" attendees were standing in wasn't a room at all--it was a balcony. Looking down onto the club's main floor were several chairs laid out for guests, and a giant screen showing a Midway Games logo on a stage where musical acts such as B.B. King, X, and The Cult have played.

The extravagant presentation wasn't just for show--it's indicative of Midway's future plans to become a big player in the industry through the next-generation--or so company execs surely hoped. The decision to host the event in Hollywood, the Mecca of celeb power, fit perfectly into the company's strategy.

Once the guests settled in, the presentation began with a brief introduction. Then it was on to one of the publisher's most anticipated games. Mark Rein, vice president of Epic Games, showed off some never-before-seen footage of Unreal Tournament 2007. The game is one of the key ingredients to Midway's recent PC efforts, which Midway CEO David Zucker marks as a key ingredient to fuel the company's future success.

UT 2007 is being accompanied in the PC market by another major name, The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game set in the universe created by J.R.R. Tolkien. With those two big licenses leading the way, and the real-time strategy game Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War, Midway isn't just jumping into the pool with two feet, it's bouncing off the diving board and soaking onlookers with a giant cannonball.

Another area Midway is plunging into is children's games. Ed, Edd n Eddy: The Mis-Edventures was Midway's first release under its deal to develop games based on some of Cartoon Network's brands (it was one of Midway's top sellers from 2005). Young gamers can expect more of the same from Midway in 2006 and beyond, as the company hyped games based on The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, and adaptations of two forthcoming Warner Brother animated films, Happy Feet and Ant Bully.

Midway will also be relying on its stable of established franchises in 2006, shipping out new NBA Ballers and Mortal Kombat titles. NBA Ballers: Phenom brings two-on-two matches and an open-world environment replete with rhythm-based minigames, and NBA Ballers: Rebound brings the action of the million-plus-unit-selling NBA Ballers to the PSP.

Also presented were Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, a title that is promised to be the biggest MK game ever, with almost every single Mortal Kombat character being called back for one last hurrah, and Mortal Kombat: Unchained, a PSP game based on Mortal Kombat: Deception.

Furthering its concentration on attracting big-name stars and movie licenses to games, Midway showed off Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, which is scheduled for release on current-generation consoles this year. Also mentioned, but not shown, was another property starring a beefy leading man and a fast car, Vin Diesel in the Wheelman, slated for the next generation in 2007. The game is being developed simultaneously with the action flick The Wheelman, which will also star Deisel and be released alongside the game.

It's properties such as The Wheelman that gets Midway execs particularly excited. "We're very focused on gaining market share in the next generation. 2005 and 2006 were all about making sure we're putting the right building blocks in place to be a major player for the next generation of consoles," Zucker told GameSpot News.

As outlined in the company's earnings call last week, Midway's first next-gen project is a prime example of its strategy heading into the next few years.

Zucker said, "Over the past year and a half we've also become more active in licensing external properties as well as pursuing innovative licensing arrangements such as attaching popular stars, well-known directors, and other cultural iconography to our new titles to improve their reach, but also reduce the risk associated with making new intellectual property attractive to mass-market gamers."

To that point, Stranglehold will be released later this year on next-gen consoles and is a sequel to the 1992 John Woo film Hard-Boiled. Woo has been overseeing the project, adding his cinematic action sense and flair to the game. Chow Yun-Fat, who starred as Inspector Tequila in the movie, has lent his likeness to the film as well.

As the night raged on and attendees were wined and dined, it was uncanny how the event and the company's strategy were so similar. Midway wants its consumers to feel like they are A-list celebrities...or can at least control them in a game.

For more on the company's 2006 lineup, check out GameSpot's coverage of Midway's press event.

Written By

Want the latest news about The Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria?

The Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria

The Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria

Discussion

37 comments
superrashid
superrashid

Hopefully Midway wont screw up MKA. Luckily MKDA and MKD were both great. Im really looking forward to this game. In a sense its gonna be sad to see MK end, but It is the right time. But you also gotta give Midway props for doing this. They got the guts to end there longest running franchise. When will Mario ever end? THe last great Mario game was Super Mario 64!

gamerdude88
gamerdude88

Why no Arcade Treasures 4? You could had Area 51, Burger Time, Gauntlet Legends, Moon Patrol, Ultimate MK 3, NBA Jam, and a bunch of Atari/Midway games for PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube. Maybe, they are focused on the next-gen systems for Arcade Treasures.

thefjk
thefjk

Midway has never disappointed me!

chrisdojo
chrisdojo

will all thoes games REALLY be all that great?

Kruelty_K
Kruelty_K

Midway is the best game company of all time. I'm looking forward to all those games especially MORTAL KOMBAT ARMAGEDDON!!!!!!, Unreal Tournament 2K7, Stranglehold, Spyhunter: Nowhere to Run, NBA: Ballers Phenom, etc. Nothing beats Midway. All the classic arcade favorites of mine are from Midway... MORTAL KOMBAT, Area 51, Rampage, etc. They are bringing them back gradually like A-51, Rampage, etc. Midway has many awesome series such as MK, Unreal, NBA Ballers, and Spyhunter. Now that they're are making new series games, the bigger they are getting. REQUEST: Mortal Kombat Armageddon video about 10 minutes long and demo by April plz. Including: Rain, Fujin, Sheeva, Stryker, and Kintaro. (Scorpion Rules ALL!) A mini konquest mission. Demo of Spyhunter, Rampage, and NBA Ballers by April plz.

thorsen-ink
thorsen-ink

Yoooo T-TRAIN! Looking good on camera, homie!

seanlyger
seanlyger

Just so long as they stay around long enough finish the TNA game. TNA! TNA! TNA!

frankeyser
frankeyser

maybe they will change there name to fullway and be able to complete a game hahahaha

neoand12
neoand12

NO not LA, Please come to Chicago where blues really live...Mid way you really let your home town down

jonnyjd
jonnyjd

Really looking forward to UT.

Fatality4u
Fatality4u

Midway is going to have a good couple of years to come, or atleast I think so.

nemes1s3000
nemes1s3000

I like his confidence. *crosses fingers*

ReyWing
ReyWing

I'm lookn foward to hearing more about Stranglehold. Hard Boiled remains one of the best action movies ever made and just imagining taking part of action sequences in the same vein brings tears of joy to my eyes. Here's hoping it'll be a good game and get all the attention it deserves. The Wheelman looks promising because its a new IP ... sounds like its going to be a LOT like Driver or The Transporter though. Crossing fingers on that one too... Cmon BIG VIN, don't let me down. You're an inspiration to the D&D players and BBoys of the world.

NeoJedi
NeoJedi

A lot of very good games are coming from Midway. I'm especially looking forward to UT 2007.

MC_Hammerty
MC_Hammerty

Midway has a weird track record. After so many years of crap games, they redeemed themselves with Psi-ops, The Suffering, and MK: Deception in 2004. 05 was a down year for them, and i hope they pull out of their slump with Rise & Fall, Stranglehold, and whenever that new Rampage game comes out. If Rampage sucks, I'm gonna have to choke a bi**h

xFINESTx
xFINESTx

bla bla bla i hate midway..... wah wah wah i hate EA just shut up and play the video games if u dont like em dont buy them dats it midway has made good games and some awful games like every other game company

Ander_Fodel
Ander_Fodel

I hate them also and I don't remember buying a game from midway in the last years... Maybe in the last 10 years...

iammai
iammai

a great news definitely,and i can not wait for that.

tienchiha
tienchiha

How much you wanna bet that Stranglehold tanks just like NARC and Freaky Flyers.

KiLLer_ba
KiLLer_ba

Hopefully Stranglehold is good, the game looks great

Myugenjin
Myugenjin

Lol death-touch iz true man iz true! Problem is Midway is a subsidiary of Viacom who own all the music channels like MTV and even CBS. Lord knows that with MTV being over them we'll see lots more of the same thing. To make matters worse they have the power to fund many small devs to create new games but fear the repocusions so we only get watered down stuff on PSP and mainly the DS from these "could be" console games! The maker of Lumines talked about it all on G4 :(

death-touch
death-touch

I cant space for some reason but yes midway is garbage. Just like many companies i see rehashing old games midway is no different. Since people are stupid they will buy games in their 20th sequel, and dont do what needs to be done which is not buy the game and look for new stuff. You may ask well how come Britney Spears records sell and how come people watch american idol? Because they are stupid. This is why many people still listen to local radio stations when all they play is a good song from a band over and over in small amounts of time. For someone to like unique thing things in life that are of quality such as research into japanese sword making and the like is rare these days or dedication to drumming or another art is rare these days. Mortal kombat is dead and much of the stuff in 6 is inacurate when they are trying to be accurate. The guys who researched the martial arts stuff and weapons didnt do enough. My point is all you companies start making new games and stop remaking the same games over and over. You have enough money as it is. There are real isues in the world like people starving and instead all companies like you is feed what people know they will eat and laugh when they get their money, for the little effort they put into their garbage. How many times do I have to see Sub Zero and Scorpion in my lifetime? Most likely till I'm dead.

Blazer88
Blazer88

Surprised these guys still around.

redwindforms
redwindforms

I just wish that they could make a good Mortal Kombat like in the old days

fore_runner
fore_runner

Stranglehold looks good, but I wonder if the gameplay will be repetitive.