You’ve purchased a majority stake of a legendary publisher and have inherited $70 million worth of debt. How do you turn it around? You tell us, smarty pants.
Oh, Midway. I remember when I was but a small child, pumping a roll of quarters into a Gauntlet machine while listening to my all Duran Duran, Pet Shop Boys mix-tape, thinking the good times would never end. Throughout the nineties it supplied us with so many fantastic franchises like NBA Jam, San Francisco Rush and of course, Mortal Kombat. But now look at Midway. It’s publishing massive flops, ruining franchises and Wall Street wants to kick it out of the stock exchange. It’s safe to say that things could be better for the troubled publisher.
So what does Midway do? It could cancel This is Vegas, cut its losses and take them to the real Vegas, but that doesn’t give us, the public, what we want and that’s good videogames. I have my ideas and I’m sure that you, the readers, have a few of your own. What do you say team? Could we save Midway from ever lasting shame and financial ruin? Here’s what I think would help.
Reboot Mortal Kombat: This is the start of a trend where I say to rip-off everything that Capcom is doing right at the moment and that means taking advantage of their most powerful franchises. For Midway, that would be Mortal Kombat. As it stands, Mortal Kombat isn’t exactly relevant in today’s society and having Scorpion fight Batman doesn’t seem to be helping, especially since it had to be watered down in the process.
Mortal Kombat was never popular because it was a particularly brilliant display of game design, but because it scared the living daylights out of parents around the world. Over time, however, the series has essentially became a caricature of itself to the point where it seems as though only rebellious tweens are even paying attention anymore. What Midway needs to do is completely reboot the series. It needs to pull a Street Fighter IV and figure out what the key elements are, the fondest memories and exploit them in one great package.
Come up with a solid roster, bring the gameplay back to the pace of Mortal Kombat 2 and 3, ditch the monikers and hold nothing back in terms of gore and carnage. Is that the best thing for our industry? Probably not. Is it aiming towards the lowest common denominator? Absolutely, but Midway needs to generate enough buzz in the media to drive home that fear once again and create a decent enough game in the process. DC Comics didn’t seem to get their attention, but in my experiences, ripping off someone’s head does the trick. It’s the biggest franchise they’ve got and it’s about time it gets treated like it.
Dip Into the Classics: Does Midway realize its sitting on a gold mine? Sure, due to licensing issues it wouldn’t be easy nor financially viable to reproduce the likes of NFL Blitz and NBA Showtime, but Smash TV, San Francisco Rush and The Grid? What’s the hold up?
It’s time to gaze into the well of classic gaming and figure out which games are due for a low-cost, high-return revival like Bionic Commando: Rearmed and which ones simply need a fresh coat of paint. Smash TV, for example, was a hit in both the arcades and when it launched alongside the Xbox 360 in the Live Arcade. Even though the 8-way shooter has been done to death in recent years, people still love the concept of a twisted reality show where contestants slaughter hundreds of others in the name of a brand-new toaster and it could benefit from a new entry. It’s spiritual successor, Total Carnage? Give it the HD treatment. San Francisco Rush and it’s sequel, Rush: 2049? Don’t mess with perfection. Send it on up for a new round of fancy graphics, toss in some online features and call it a day.
Stop Competing with Hollywood: All the giant publishers in the videogame space want to compete with Hollywood for big projects and bigger talent and some publishers, like EA, can get away with it because it’s unbelievably rich. Not Midway, however and John Woo’s Stranglehold should have been the first sign. It’s a great game to be sure, but it didn’t pay off at retail, especially with the price of licensing and developing for what amounts to a fairly obscure film.
Midway is aiming to do it once more with Vin Diesel starring in The Wheelman, which the general public is bound to shrug at (they already did once at the universally praised Escape from Butcher Bay) and gives most gamers bad Driv3r flashbacks. This combined with the recently released TNA Impact (which is currently tanking) gives me the impression that Midway simply does not have the resources required to capitalize on these big names. It’s time to stop trying to go for the hail mary in the fourth quarter and try to focus on the quality of what is already in-house.
How about you, dear readers? What wisdom would you like to bestow upon our sinking friend?