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Microsoft Halts the Presses
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on February 16, 2004   |   Episode 38 (Show Archive)  

   

If GameSpot isn't going to cover From Justin to Kelly, then Defunct Games will!
Movies come and go, but few are like From Justin to Kelly. It's the 2003 musical masterpiece starring that Kelly chick from American Idol, and the guy that lost to her. They sing, they dance, they share completely improbably situations that are strung together by nothing more than chance and coincidence. It's a terrible movie that requires a great deal of force to get through.

From Justin to Kelly isn't just a bad movie, though, it's the perfect example of how the film industry works. Not every movie can be an artistic tour-de-force, but some movies are certainly worse than others. One can only assume that the reason From Justin to Kelly was made was to cash in on the "success" of American Idol. Certainly the studio had no confidence in it, since they decided to release the film without a critics screening so common to movies today.

This trend of simply dumping a movie on an unsuspecting audience isn't new; film studios have been doing it for years. They understand that most of their money is made on the opening weekend, and if they can keep that negative review out of the Friday newspaper, chances are their movie is going to do a lot better.

But what if a video game company started doing that? What if somebody already is?

Microsoft is good at talking up their long library of quality games, like Halo and Crimson Skies, but what about those titles they have little to no confidence in? After looking at my notes, I realized that most of the really bad Microsoft games get passed over when it comes to reviewable versions of

This Japanese cover for Sneakers is perhaps the best aspect of the game!
the game. Spanning the entire Xbox lifespan, we've compiled a list of three games Microsoft would rather the critics forget about. We'll let you decide whether or not this is slick marketing or a suspicious way of suckering in hordes of unsuspecting gamers.

Sneaker
Microsoft didn't just attempt to avert game critics with their first rotten tomato; they didn't want anybody to find it. Sneakers was an early Xbox game that could only be found in Toys R Us stores. That's right, ONLY at Toys R Us, a company that isn't exactly known for their video game section. It's essentially a polygonal version of hide and go seek, a classic childhood game I'd rather not recreate. Critics and Xbox owners agreed and Sneakers hasn't been heard from since.

Grabbed by the Ghoulies
Rare is responsible for some of the best games of the last twenty years, so when their first Xbox game, Grabbed by the Ghoulies, was held away from the hands of critics, many thought it was just to build excitement. Unfortunately it didn't take long to realize that, yet again, we had been duped. Rare hadn't come up with another high water mark, in fact, there's barely any water at all! Grabbed by the Ghoulies felt liked a rushed project in every way possible; it featured horribly simple control and monotonous level designs. With all the hype surrounding Rare's move to Microsoft, it makes sense for them to hold off on sending critics the game until after it's released, but that doesn't justify it. No matter how brutal the critics would have been, it pales in comparison to how bad the reviews really are. But then, the game sold poorly and most Xbox owners moved on to waiting for future titles like Kameo and Conker.

Sudeki

These games may be bad, but at least they didn't feature a song and dance number!
Long hailed as the first strike in what would be a year of Xbox role-playing games, Sudeki failed to wow or impress customers when it was released in July. Reviewers were equally unimpressed when they finally got around to reviewing the game days after it came out. Big in style but lacking substance, Sudeki just didn't live up to gamers expectations, and it appears Microsoft realized that way before us. I wouldn't be surprised if high profile magazines like Electronic Gaming Monthly and GameSpot receive their copies of Fable weeks before it ships, so why not this stylish, albeit disappointing RPG? If you look at their track record you know why, and you understand why Sudeki isn't worth your time.

If left unchecked companies like Microsoft will be able to get away with these shady marketing practices. Do you want to live in a world where a company would rather dupe you into buying a substandard game than spend the time and money to make the game worth purchasing? If not, make sure and stay alert and watch the trends coming from these sneaky game publishers.
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