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You Missed Your Opportunity, Midway
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on March 30, 2009   |   Episode 93 (Show Archive)  

   


In an interesting side note, this is simultaneously the most and least appropriate picture for this article!
Things are not looking good for Midway. Despite selling two million copies of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and having such a large stable of both arcade and console (and pinball) classics, Midway is in serious financial trouble. Midway's fortunes aren't any brighter now that the entire world is stuck in an economic crisis and money is in short supply. Midway's most recent effort, The Wheelman, is being published by Ubisoft and has so far received poor marks from the critics. Worse yet, the company's other big games, including This Is Vegas, may not come out at all. Things are so bad that there is talk that Midway may sell the one thing that still makes money - Mortal Kombat!

Something has seriously gone awry at Midway. You would think that a company with so many amazing arcade releases wouldn't have any trouble making some easy cash. But that's just not the case for Midway. The problem is simple: Midway only tried ideas once or twice before giving up. Instead of nurturing the genres and putting money towards sequels, Midway decided to ignore many of their most promising games.

In this article we attempt to prove once and for all that Midway missed important opportunities at least seven different times. And it's not just Midway, we're also going to lump in the Atari-developed games that Midway currently owns. You'll be surprised at the number of terrible decisions Midway made as they spiraled further into bankruptcy. You missed your opportunity, Midway, and Defunct Games is going to show you what you could have done to prevent your economic woes!

Smash TV
[ Could Have Been: Geometry Wars ]
Brief Synopsis: You play one of two contestants on a futuristic (read: violent) game show where it's you against thousands of bad guys. If you can

I'd buy that for a dollar! (Actually, no I wouldn't, the NES version of Smash TV is woefully bad.)
survive the swarms of snakes, robots and other contestants, then you will be rewarded with "big money, big prizes" and maybe even a chance to check out the fabled Pleasure Dome.

Missed Opportunity Despite being a hugely popular arcade and console game, Smash TV failed to have a proper sequel or update. You could argue that 1991's Total Carnage was the follow-up to Smash TV, however its political theme and Iraq setting changes the game so much that it's hard to consider it a real sequel. Either way, it doesn't change the fact that for almost two decades Midway opted not to capitalize on the game's success. Was ignoring this once-hot property a wise move?

Unfortunately Midway chose wrong. These days' dual-stick shooters are all

Not only is it beautiful, but Everyday Shooter is one of the most creative dual stick shooters around!
the rage. Between Geometry Wars, Everyday Shooter, Assault Heroes, Rocketmen and dozens more, dual stick shooters are the hottest games downloadable games out there. And why wouldn't they be? After all, the modern game control is made with two analog sticks that work perfectly with this type of action game. It's a given that a game like Geometry Wars can come in and pick right up from where Smash TV and Total Carnage left off.

It's not a matter of why these games are so damn popular on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, it's a matter of why it took so long. Sony's first Dual Shock control was released in 1997 (1998 in the U.S.), anybody that looked at that primitive pad can tell you that it would be perfect for a Smash TV sequel. Yet Midway didn't care. Heck, they went as far as proving the point when they released all of their famous dual stick shooters on the PS2 and Xbox in various compilation discs. They even went as far as to release Smash TV and Robotron 2084 as downloadable Xbox Live Arcade games at the launch of the Xbox 360. Yet they never made a sequel.

Gauntlet
[ Could Have Been: Diablo ]
Brief Synopsis: Knights, magic users and dwarves were teleported to a mysterious dungeon where you (and several friends) had to work together to defeat the enemy attackers and collect enough keys to

"Look! Over there! Bank execs are getting huge bonuses with tax payer money! We need to do something about this injustice!"
get your butts out of danger. With dozens of mazes, multiple warp zones and plenty of characters to choose from, Gauntlet was an immediate hit in the arcades, spawning multiple sequels and plenty of well received console ports.

Missed Opportunity While it wasn't the first game to make you fight bad guys while racing around a maze, Gauntlet was certainly the most popular. Thanks to the four-player multiplayer gameplay and the cool variety of heroes, Gauntlet was one of Atari's biggest hits back in the mid-1980s. It was so popular that it spawned a half dozen sequels across just about every game system you can think of (NES, Lynx, Xbox, PlayStation, etc.). It was so popular that to this day people still quote the game's infectious voice samples ("Elf shot the food!"). It was so popular that ... Midway owns it now? It's funny how things work.

While Gauntlet was popular across a lot of game systems, it was never given a chance in the one place where it would have made a difference. It was never given a full-featured PC release. In the 1990s it was clear that PC gamers were desperate to play a Gauntlet-style dungeon crawler with friends online. This would have been the perfect time for Atari (or Midway, depending on the year) to swoop in and reinvent Gauntlet for the computer savvy world. But instead they ignored PC gamers and let Blizzard step in with their own game series, Diablo. Once Diablo hit the market it was game over for the competition, and that's why Midway shouldn't even bother bringing the arcade thrills of Gauntlet to the personal computer. Sorry guys, but you missed your opportunity.

Marble Madness
[ Could Have Been: Super Monkey Ball ]
Brief Synopsis: It's a game where you control the fate of a small marble in a huge world of obstacles. The concept is simple; it's a downhill maze where you, using a trackball, manipulate the outcome of your marble. Along the way you have to navigate around

Man, I hate blue balls!
pits, enemies and misleading drops. The casual appeal and unique gameplay won the game a large following in the 1980s, which translated to a number of home console ports. Although we've seen slight updates to the formula, Atari never released a full-on sequel to this 1984 hit.

Missed Opportunity The concept of Marble Madness is genius. Who would have thought that navigating a marble through downhill mazes would be so much fun? But it was, and that's why it was popular on so many game systems. Throw in the arcade's trackball and Marble Madness is almost impossible to ignore. Sadly that's all Atari did with this poor game. While there were several iterations of the game, this 1984 game stayed a relic of the past. Neither Atari nor Midway (who later gobbled up the rights) saw the goldmine that a mini-game obsessed 3D Marble Madness would bring.

To be fair to Atari and everybody involved, Super Monkey Ball's popularity was hard to predict. And much of the game's fun comes from the wackiness of the lead characters, all of which are monkeys ... stuck in a super big ball. But just because the trend was hard to predict, that doesn't justify Atari's decision to not make a full 3D version of the game sometime in the 1990s. It's not like Atari was against giving their classic games a 3D facelift, in 1999 the company gave us a sequel/remake to Pong. I'm not saying that Marble Madness 3D would have changed Atari's ultimate course, but it certainly would have helped to be out there before Sega.
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