Now Playing: Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2), Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader (PC), Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution (PS2), Star Wars Galaxies (PC), Rock N' Roll Racing (GBA)
Most Wanted: Halo: Combat Evolved (PC), Half-Life 2 (PC), The Temple of Elemental Evil (PC)
Here's one of life's great paradoxes: Although there's nothing I hate like a bad game, if bad games didn't exist, I wouldn't be here. Because, if you must know...my father was a bad game.
Bad games have been tricking people for years, but fortunately for many of us, we don't make the same mistakes twice.
When people unrelated to gaming ask me what I do for a living, I still have trouble giving them a good answer--and by "good" I mean one that won't provoke any follow-up questions, since if you tuned in last time, you'll know that I'm a socially awkward miscreant who's obviously a product of the evildoings of the video game industry and that I want as little chitchat as possible in between my virtual killing sprees. Half-jokingly, I sometimes describe what we do here at GameSpot as "saving extra lives." Like imaginary firefighters fighting imaginary fires, our directive is to steer people clear of games they shouldn't expose themselves to. Admittedly, that's a pretty self-important way of thinking about it. But I spend so much time with games that I can't help but try to take what I do seriously to some extent.
Some bad games are slapped together to make a quick buck, but at what cost to the publisher's reputation and the morale of its employees?
As with pretty much anything, bad games are inevitable. They're not necessarily anyone's fault. Some bad games are the result of completely unrealistic expectations--the developers do all they can in the time they have, and no wonder the shipped product is short, simple, and rough around the edges. On the other hand, some games just take too long, and by the time they're complete, they seem dated and half-hearted, as though the people working on the project lost their will somewhere along the way and decided just to finish what they started and move on. Still other games come from people who simply didn't and possibly couldn't do a good job of making them.
I was sad to learn that Capcom's Red Dead Revolver got canned, but I'd have been sadder if it had turned out to be a lousy game.
Though there have been plenty of bad games so far this year, I suppose I'm happy to report that, by December, there will have been fewer of them than there could have been. That is, it seems for every bad game that actually comes out these days, two or three are getting canceled before they ship. If you've been keeping up with our news section, then maybe you've noticed a surprising number of game cancellations lately. Even big companies like LucasArts and Capcom are swallowing their pride and cutting their losses these days.
Cutting their losses is exactly what they're doing, by the way. It may disappoint you, as it does me, to hear that cool-sounding games like Red Dead Revolver and Dead Phoenix have been scrapped. But you should quickly realize that games generally get canceled with very good reason. Put yourself in the publisher's shoes, and let's say you have plenty of past experience to draw upon. Let's say you have a number of half-hearted, mediocre games under your belt that have barely recouped the expenses you put into their development but went on to undermine your brand name. Let's say you have a very good hunch that there's yet another such a game in development in your outfit. Do you defiantly see the project through to the bitter end, or do you bite your lip, swallow your pride, and do the right thing? The same money you'd be putting into that game, and the same developers toiling away on that game, could probably instead be used to make one of your other, more-promising projects even better and hopefully even more successful.
One of the things I love about the gaming industry is that, ultimately, a game's success really does hinge on its quality. In Hollywood, a huge and well-timed marketing blitz can get a ton of people to go see a big summer blockbuster even if it really isn't a very good movie. And, while marketing has become very important in the gaming industry as well, at the end of the day we're not going to settle for lousy games, because we actively have to play them rather than passively sit back and just watch them. Larger game companies are going to keep trying to market their games into your heart and home, but unless those games are actually good, they won't turn you into a fan. And what these companies really ought to be trying to do is turning you into a fan, because that way, they'll have a lifelong customer.
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