Honey, those NES controllers aren't going to help you where we're going!
Five years, 200 episodes, 17 systems, 3 ratings and over 400 reviews; there's a reason why This Week in Defunct Games is so popular. Every seven days we look at that week's retro releases, from the Virtual Console to PSone Classics to the Neo Geo Station. Defunct Games helps take some of the guess work out of buying old school games on modern consoles and handhelds.
Last week we passed a milestone and hit our 200th episode. To celebrate, we spent a whole day crunching the numbers and determining which classic game system was best (see: The Numbers Behind This Week's 200th Ep!). But even after digging deep into our ratings, we discovered that a lot of people still had questions. Whatever happened to the co-host? What about the missing games? And will we ever bring back the weekly limericks and haikus?
To clear up some of the confusion, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at the show's feeble starts and how it has evolved over the years. Below is everything you ever wanted to know about This Week in Defunct Games and more. Get ready to become an Instant Expert on one of Defunct Games' most enduring shows.
The Birth: Better Late Than Never
Officially introduced on March 15, 2007, This Week in Defunct Games was sold as a weekly review show looking at retro releases. Our initial targets included Tecmo Bowl, Sonic Spinball and Double Dungeons on the
Virtual Console, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Xbox Live Arcade, and the PSN port of wipEout 3. The idea was to keep it simple, ask three very basic questions ("What Is It?", "Does It Still Hold Up?" and "Is It Worth the Money?") and get out. Nobody needs a fifteen hundred word argument for Sonic Spinball, they just want to know if it's worth eight dollars.
You would think that reviewing the weekly Virtual Console games would be a no-brainer, but it took us almost exactly four months to finally run with the idea. In our defense, this was still an emerging market and nobody knew
how long it would be around. Plus, we had already reviewed many of the games uploaded to the Virtual Console, potentially making the show redundant. It didn't take long for us to realize that redundant or not, we needed to start addressing these weekly games on a regular basis. From there it didn't take long for This Week in Defunct Games to be born.
We initially targeted Thursdays, giving us a couple days to digest that Monday's Virtual Console games. Unfortunately, it didn't give us much time to play the Xbox Live Arcade titles (released on Wednesdays) or PSN releases (released on Thursdays). After toying with a few different review types, we ultimately dropped Microsoft and Sony's platforms entirely. We vowed to work solely on the Virtual Console. Little did we know that the PSone Classics would be a popular mainstay a couple hundred episodes later.
This Week in Defunct Games: The Podcast
Inspired by the many worthwhile retro-themed podcasts floating around the internet, Defunct Games decided to turn This Week in Defunct Games into a
podcast. Fans could read our written reviews and then immediately download a short conversation about that week's titles. It seemed like the perfect way to add another audio podcast to the site and have deep conversations about games most people have forgotten about. It was the can't-miss idea that crashed and burned. What happened?
Between March 15 and July 12, 2007, we recorded ten podcasts starring Cyril Lachel and Wes Grogan. We chatted for a few minutes about what we were playing and the two or three Virtual Console games released that week. We learned that Wes loved Zelda II and that Cyril had changed his mind about Splatterhouse. They were lively conversations,
even if the recording quality is embarrassing in retrospect.
As easy as it sounds, creating a podcast takes a lot of work. Not only do you have to plan the time to record it, but you also have to spend a lot of time editing it. Writing the weekly article was already time consuming, so the added hassle of synching up schedules and recording became a nightmare. Eventually the two hosts decided to call it quits, simply leaving the written article we know today.
Don't feel too bad for Wes Grogan, as he would eventually go on to write a number of interesting articles for Defunct Games. He will always be remembered for creating another popular show, A Brief History of Gaming. After writing the firstfewepisodes, Wes moved on to bigger and better things. But that's a history lesson for another day.
The GameTap Situation
People forget about it now, but there once was a time when GameTap looked like it might become a viable game platform. Instead of weighing people down with needless
hardware, this Ted Turner-funded company opted to deliver a wide variety of games to your computer using the internet. Think of it as the precursor to OnLive or Sega Channel: The Next Level, the choice is yours.
After being wooed at the Penny Arcade Expo in Bellevue, Washington, we decided to add a short blurb about GameTap at the end of every "This Week" episode. This coincided perfectly with the company's push for classic arcade games, and we were only too eager to help them promote a growing list of free downloadable games. GameTap couldn't be happy with our coverage, sending us contest codes, classic game swag and more. Unfortunately, the bubble was about to burst.
Hot on the Heels of the Sam & Max reboot, GameTap decided to hire American McGee for an episodic series. The result was American McGee's Grimm, an ugly game that ran between 2008 and 2009. Suddenly we had gone from reviewing Final Fight to talking about the awfulness of Grimm. This Week in Defunct Games had lost its way. Eventually the company would make another play for the classic game market, but not before the damage was done. The GameTap situation sent our writing staff into a deep, dark funk. It would be awhile before any of us saw the light again.
The Dark Days: Haikus, Limericks and Sadness
Instead of dropping GameTap immediately, we chose a gradual phasing out strategy. Our first
step was to drastically change the reviews. This meant that we ditched our detailed paragraph and instead focused on extremely brief haikus. As it turns out; writing poetry is a lot of fun, especially when it has something to do with video games. Gone were the days of spending hours playing through games, because now all we had to do was think 5 - 7 - 5.
From there we decided to broaden our horizons, which meant reintroducing the Xbox Live Arcade and PSN stores. Each section had its own gimmick -- Point/Counter Point with Microsoft,
WiiWare limericks, DSiWare poetry, etc. This allowed us to be creative and review a number of games we hadn't played. This was especially helpful in the early days of the Wii and DSiWare, platforms known for quantity over quality.
Like any gimmick, it didn't take long for us to grow tired of the haikus and limericks. We weren't really reviewing games anymore; we were making a mockery out of these downloadable services. And to make matters worse, none of these platforms were offering retro games. We needed to change directions and take the show more seriously. We wanted people to look forward to "This Week" for the reviews, not the poetry. Even though we had outgrown the haikus, they ultimately helped us beat the blues and become the powerful feature you know today.
The Missing Games and a Big Announcement!
As you already know, This Week in Defunct Games was born on March 15, 2007. That means that there are four months' worth of games unaccounted for. For those keeping count, that's a total of 62 Virtual Console games missing from our database. These include
some of the biggest hits of all time, including Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario World, SimCity, The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, Gradius, Kid Icarus, Bonk's Adventure and Gunstar Heroes.
A few of these games have made their way into recent "This Week" episodes, thanks to Nintendo relreasing NES hits like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong Jr. Other games have been extensively in long form reviews and articles about compilation discs. Still, it keeps us awake at night knowing that we have yet to pass judgment on a huge chunk of Virtual Console releases. That is unacceptable!
This is why we're proud to introduce our newest show: This Week in Defunct Games Rewind. Instead of taking the week off when Nintendo ignores the Virtual Console, we're going to leap into action and review six or seven older releases. Slowly we will start to chip away at the missing games and, with any luck, become your first stop for any and all retro reviews.