Monday, November 27, 2006

Midway's Quest For "Better Games"

It is always interesting for me, a videogame guy who approaches the medium almost entirely as a player, to get a peek behind the glowing screen and see the business gears turning. Today’s New York Times has an article about game maker Midway and Sumner Redstone, a billionaire investor who owns a majority of Midway’s stock.

Apparently, Redstone has been holding the shares tightly even as Midway’s share prices have been falling. As many a gamer could tell you, apart from Mortal Kombat, Midway doesn’t have a lot going on. (That said, I did enjoy The Suffering.)

I wonder if the business reporter consults with gamers or the Times’s game writers when working on such a story. Most of the discussion of videogames in this piece seems reasonable to me. But surely a gamer would challenge this assertion: “We are focusing on fewer and better games, and we have positioned ourselves very well for the next cycle,” Shari Redstone, vice-chairman of Midway and Sumner’s daughter, told the Times. So what are these “better games”? The Times reports:

So far this year, Midway has introduced Mortal Kombat: Armageddon and it is set to introduce Happy Feet, based on the new Warner Brothers movie.

Coincidentally, I was just reading’s comparison of console launch games last night. Guess which game sits alone, stinking at the bottom of the launch-game barrel. It’s Happy Feet, the Wii’s worst launch game, and one of the worst launch games of all time, according to 1UP’s analysis. Maybe it will sell due to the movie tie-in—and according to the article, this seems to be the real core of Midway’s overall strategy—but the game still looks like typical licensed garbage.

Here’s my business strategy for Midway: make fun games.

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