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Failed Games That Damaged Or Killed Their Companies 397

An anonymous reader writes "Develop has an excellent piece up profiling a bunch of average to awful titles that flopped so hard they harmed or sunk their studio or publisher. The list includes Haze, Enter The Matrix, Hellgate: London, Daikatana, Tabula Rasa, and — of course — Duke Nukem Forever. 'Daikatana was finally released in June 2000, over two and a half years late. Gamers weren't convinced the wait was worth it. A buggy game with sidekicks (touted as an innovation) who more often caused you hindrance than helped ... achieved an average rating of 53. By this time, Eidos is believed to have invested over $25 million in the studio. And they called it a day. Eidos closed the Dallas Ion Storm office in 2001.'"
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Failed Games That Damaged Or Killed Their Companies

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  • by SeeSp0tRun ( 1270464 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:26PM (#30835186) Journal
    If you consider crashing every 20 minutes, losing any save data you had, and having some video sequences prevent any further progress due to crashing.

    ...and that was on a console!
    • I have yet to find a game based on a movie that hasn't sucked.
    • The video game itself was tedious, but the that mini game off the main menu where you could hack the terminal was awesome good fun. Without checking YouTube first, I say aloud to no-one that a cut together edit of all of the cinemas would be nice to watch through. Now I just need to care enough this much later to bother looking.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Knara ( 9377 )

      I never had a crash for Enter the Matrix, myself. I actually quite enjoyed it. I may have been the only one, I guess.

      The bonus footage that fit into "Reloaded" was cool, too. But, I'm in the minority of liking the majority of that trilogy, as well.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by calzakk ( 1455889 )

        You're not the only one who enjoyed it, I did too, greatly :)

        Enter The Matrix was somewhat unique. Unlike a typical game based on a movie, where you're basically playing the main character from the movie doing the same things in the same places, ETM was actually a precursor to The Matrix Reloaded and involved different characters and locations to set the scene for the movie. How cool was that? And how many other games have done this?!

      • by Stormwatch ( 703920 ) <<moc.liamtoh> <ta> <oarigogirdor>> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:33PM (#30836218) Homepage
        There was no trilogy. Please refrain from spreading such lies. Thank you.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Opportunist ( 166417 )

        There was no trilogy. There was one movie, and a script [] that was sadly never turned into a sequel.

        Seriously. Read it and then try to tell me this would not have rocked way more than anything they crapped out after the first movie.

    • I consider Enter the Matrix to have been a surprisingly good movie tie in; in fact, I'd consider the game to be the true spiritual successor to the first Matrix film. Missions like the post office and the airport missions has the feel of what you sort of expected was the kind of thing the rebels actually got up to in the Matrix. The game only fell down mission wise when it stuck too close to the film it was bound into supporting.

      But let's talk gameplay.

      In my opinion, Enter the Matrix gets over looked an awf

  • ...making a game is hard work. I can't imagine what it would feel like to see your hard work (even if the result of that work is suckage) result in the ending of a developer.

  • All Right! (Score:5, Funny)

    by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:28PM (#30835208) Homepage Journal

    This is just what we needed around here!

    Another chance to moan about Duke Nukem Forever!

    Hopefully someone bought rights to the title so we can continue to write about DNF. We need more server space dedicated to DNF writing! It's always just around the corner.

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      Hopefully someone bought rights to the title so we can continue to write about DNF.

      That's what I was just thinking: if I was a bazillionaire I'd buy the rights and claim to still be in development just so it could become the longest-lived vaporware in the history of computing.

    • Every universe has its black holes. The gaming universe is no exception. In fact, there is one called DNF. Stay away, lest your company be sucked in and doomed never to return! Yes I know it's a beautiful site, but you *must* stay away from DNF.

      You've all been warned.

    • by fm6 ( 162816 )

      Except that it isn't "failed". Vaporware can't fail, it's never had a chance to not succeed!

      Hmm, maybe that's why it's still vaporware...

  • Bigger scale (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hansamurai ( 907719 ) <> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:28PM (#30835216) Homepage Journal

    E.T. nearly killed off an entire industry. Though I'm sure that's just what history remembers as its death blow.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      ...but the game cartridges did make a nice little hill in Arizona.

    • Re:Bigger scale (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Skuld-Chan ( 302449 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:52PM (#30835638)

      ET would have never killed off gaming - all it would have done is tighten the standards on what publishers would ship as acceptable (which actually happened) and people would tighten their standards on what they would buy before trying. ET if anything was probably good for the industry and consumers. Right now I think we are seeing a return of shovelware, and its effects. The economy is bad, and I know for a fact that I'm not the only one waiting for COD MW2 to end up in the bargain bin (60$ is just too much to take a chance on).

      Same with MMO's - I'm sure somewhere Mythic for instance has a figure on how many box sales they will get on day one, and aren't nearly as concerned with how many people actually stay subscribed (just my observation - they just seem disinterested in actually addressing community concerns).

      And yes I bought ET when it came out - its still in my box o carts wherever my 2600 is, and it wasn't the last pile of crap I ever spent good money on, but it certianly made me think more about my purchases after that.

    • E.T. nearly killed off an entire industry. Though I'm sure that's just what history remembers as its death blow.

      I second that, but TFA is talking specifically about games during the past decade.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hairyfeet ( 841228 )

      Actually, as someone who was an avid gamer at the time (I had a VIC20 plus a Coleco with the Atari adapter so I could play most games) I would say what caused the "big crash" of 83/84 was a combination of "games" like chase the chuckwagon [] and "The A-Team" (Lord that one was bad) combined with retailers going "balls in" and investing WAAAY too much money and floor space to games.

      I remember when the crash happened I went to the local Magic Mart (anybody remember that chain?) and I was snatching up Atari games

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:28PM (#30835222)

    once EA buys them it's game over.

    • Somehow BioWare is surviving, even if they're pushing DLC more obnoxiously than ever.

  • If The Fourth Monkey Island game hurt Lucas-arts. Not that it was a terrible game, but I definately doubt it did as well as its predecessors.

    I'm not surprised the rights to make it went off to Telltale games. They have done a decent job with the episodic content of it. I have an itching feeling it won't be the end of that series though.

  • VtM:B (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lavaforge ( 245529 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:31PM (#30835258)

    Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines was another game that killed the company. There's even an interview about it somewhere here on Slashdot.

    Apparently it went way over budget, was laden with game breaking bugs, and had copy protection problems.

    It's a shame, really, because the last 5 years of fan patching have made it kind of enjoyable.

    • Re:VtM:B (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tobor the Eighth Man ( 13061 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:40PM (#30835420)

      Came here to post this very game.

      Troika was always an overly ambitious company. Their writing and setting development was top notch, but all their releases demonstrated an apparent lack of management oversight and nitty-gritty game programming/scripting expertise. Bloodlines is a great example: the first two and a half areas are brilliant, with rich characters and excellent writing and comparatively few bugs. It was among the best FPSRPGs I'd ever played.

      Then the rest of the game is increasingly a trainwreck, until the last level is just a silly run and gun through a repetitive skyscraper, which was so regressive in terms of design that it smacked of FPS games pre-Half-Life. Tons of stuff was obviously cut from the game, and it seems quite likely they had to rush it out the door to make deadline, with stuff unfinished.

      Arcanum had many of the same flaws as Bloodlines - stronger early game than endgame, cut or abandoned gameplay elements, bugs and a lack of fine-tuning - but on nowhere near the same scale.

    • by AP31R0N ( 723649 )

      Loved that game.

      i think some of its trouble was due to using the HL2 code that was leaked. They had to change a bunch of stuff at the last minute. Or so i heard.

      i didn't notice any game breaking bugs. Just some quirky movement stuff that was the same as the quirks in most FPSes.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by AndrewNeo ( 979708 )

        If they had used leaked code, Valve's legal department certainly would have killed their company. They licensed the Source engine, it's just that when HL2 was first released, it was buggy, and only Valve had the knowledge to get it working properly, rather than a 3rd party developer.

  • Infocom (Score:5, Informative)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:43PM (#30835482)

    Infocom made a great series of text adventure games, so they logically moved into the database arena, which sank the company. [] []

  • by Jim Hall ( 2985 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:51PM (#30835630) Homepage

    TFA mentions Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness as the game that tipped Eidos/Core over.

    I first discovered the series with Tomb Raider 2. Since then, huge fan! I bought all the games for PS1, and a few for the Mac as well (I'd re-play the game on my in-laws' computer sometimes.)

    When Eidos announced Angel of Darkness for PS2, I was obviously caught up in the hype. More memory and higher res meant more intricate puzzles and larger levels - this would be an amazing game. Or so I thought. Aside from buggy gameplay (and there was a lot of that) they changed the game mechanic to the point that it was like playing an entirely different game, but with Lara Croft in it. No tombs, no puzzles, just a lot of running around shooting things.

    I quit the game before I got very far in it, the same sucked that bad. I recall making it just past the cemetary - which I understand is still pretty early in the game.

    Still, good things came out of this fiasco: Tomb Raider: Legend was actually very good! Amazing what a new developer can do to breathe fresh life into a project. (That said, Uncharted is a better series.)

    • Actually it is not just Tomb Raider Legend, every Tomb Raider so far, done by Crystal Dynamics is very good and among the best in the series, too bad that the series itself has been drained to death, so CD does not get the rewards they should for reviving the series in this excellent manner.

  • it pretty much tanked and Atari quickly parted ways with them.

    • I got a copy of MOO3 used from a friend (for free). The funny part, I thought, was that because of the font in the manual, every time they said "Orion" it looked like "Onion".

      An apt description of the game. It's got layers. Lotsa layers. And no cake-layers or parfait-layers, either. Layers that make you cry.

      • by BobMcD ( 601576 )

        I remember really, really wanting to like this game. I even bought and played the Star Trek version of it...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Whorhay ( 1319089 )

        I bought it when it first came out. I played it for maybe two days before giving up on it. The game play was so radically different from MOO2 that I just couldn't figure out how to make it work the way I wanted. I guess it was closer to MOO than MOO2, but I was really hoping for a more refined version of the sequel not the original.

        Things I would have liked as improvements of MOO2:
        Better AI for space battles, both on the enemies part and when you told it to fight for you.
        Better build que management, longer

  • I really did, it wasn't great but it was interesting in the Matrix Story to see parts from other point of view.
  • To make the assumption a "bad" game sank a company is hard to justify, considering "bad" games often sell much better than "good" ones.

    There are a lot of companies that make bad products that are profitable (mine, for example) and many that make great products that can't stay in business.

    In many cases, I would bet that a game company runs the risk of going out of business because their product is too good (or bent on being too good, and never hits the shelves in time to start making profit).

  • MYST

    I don't think Ubisoft helped turn out a profitable title.

    • by ExE122 ( 954104 ) *
      I saw MYST available as an iPod app. I didn't feel like dishing out $5.99 for it so I can't tell you if it's any good. However it's a sign that somebody somewhere is still getting picking up some loose change from it.

      The "remastered" original Monkey Island game is also available on Steam and iPod. It has received high marks on both.
  • Vanguard (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Taeolas ( 523275 )
    Surprised they didn't mention Vanguard. It killed Sigil software and the only reason it's still on Life Support is SOE bought it out on the cheap. (See also: Matrix Online before that one was finally killed)
    • Vanguard's actually undergone some development since McQuaid sold it to SOE for cocaine money.

      MXO, on the other hand, was forced on SOE as part of an agreement for the rest of Warner's licenses.

  • I tried out Tabula Rasa a few months before it was shut down, at a point when most of its serious problems were sorted out. But poor game mechanics was its biggest weakness.

    What annoyed me most was how it was touted as a FPS/RPG hybrid. IMO for anything to be deemed an FPS, it must rely on players to aim their weapons and the game would utilize collision detect to ascertain hits. Tabula Rasa did not do this - you had to select what enemies to shoot at, and it was all chance based like most MMOs out there. T

    • by BobMcD ( 601576 )

      I tried it and liked it, a lot. The wife enjoyed it, too. The problem we had was this is where it ended. There wasn't any sense of community and we couldn't get anyone interested in it. As a single player game, it kind of fell short.

  • It just wasn't good enough to get them to where they could release Mythos which would have been the cash cow. Like many small businesses their essential failing was being under-capitalized, not necessarily a terrible product.
  • by BForrester ( 946915 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:15PM (#30835978)

    Duke Nukem Forever didn't kill the studio; the studio killed themselves off without the need of any additional assistance.

    The other examples are cases of products being buggy, or misguided, or overzealous... but any project is doomed to fail when the project team doesn't have a goal, and doesn't really work on the project.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BobMcD ( 601576 )

      Either I misread you, or you're missing the point. The death of the studio was the desire to make DNF both internally perfect and better than anything else on the market. They wound up chasing from one engine to the next and bled themselves dry.

      If you either take Duke out of the picture entirely, or release it as a mediocre game then the dev shop may well still be alive today.

  • by joeflies ( 529536 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:22PM (#30836080)
    From what I've read, the whole reason it was called Final Fantasy in the first place was that the company was planning to close and Final Fantasy was their swan song. They weren't expecting a miracle since they were treading in new waters and just decided to publish their last game. And lo and behold, their final game that was supposed to be the end of the company turned out to be their saving throw.
  • It single handedly killed one of the most beloved franchises in computer gaming history (that and EA that is who still has not figured out which gem they had bought with the Ultima franchise)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sancho ( 17056 )

      What actually killed Origin was EA. EA purchased Origin in the same year that Ultima 7 was released--and coincidentally, Ultima 7 was the last really good Ultima game. Ultima 7 part 2 was fun and a good story, but it was far too linear. It also never felt like an Ultima. Ultima 8 was rushed to keep EA's stockholders happy. Ultima 9 was simply a travesty. The constant delays, rewrites, and fighting between Garriot and EA turned what could have been a fantastic ending to the series into a pile of poo.


      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Actually you cannot blame everything regarding U9 on EA (and also not everything from U8). The jumping which made the initial U8 so lousy was simply that Garriot wanted to have more jump and run elements in there and the missing content was ort of additional packs (since they worked out so well for U7). Problem simply was the everyone hated the jumping, Origin fixed that in the first patch. The missing content never appeared because EA axed further works on the game due to the financial dive it caused. As f

  • by macraig ( 621737 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [giarc.a.kram]> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:40PM (#30836302)

    What, no TA: Kingdoms and Cavedog? No Master of Orion III and Quicksilver? Lovell must be new here.

  • by BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:41PM (#30836330)

    This doesn't take a huge heap of imagination, but I'm going to go ahead and predict that the unexpected, unprecedented success of WoW will be the end of Blizzard. This seems like a really safe bet based on any of the following scenarios:

    1) Activision big-brothers them into oblivion
    2) They get caught up making bad movies, rather than good games
    3) They are never able to make a successful sequel, or even another really profitable title
    4) Creative differences, anti-user angst, or other mis-management runs it into the ground (e.g. NGE) and the shop never recovers

    There's just too many dollars riding on WoW. Too much momentum. Surviving the end of that is going to either require masterful leadership or gigantic catastrophe.

    Come to think of it, didn't they name their next expansion 'Cataclysm'? ;)

    • by Tobor the Eighth Man ( 13061 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:22PM (#30836906)

      To date, as far as I can tell, Blizzard has never made a bad (debatable, based on personal taste) or unsuccessful (not up for debate) game. They've got a perfect record. And they're raking in more money every month. If that's a recipe for disaster, sign me up!

  • Enter the Matrix? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by foo fighter ( 151863 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:45PM (#30836390) Homepage

    What was wrong with Enter the Matrix? It killed a company?

    You got to jump off walls, shoot agents, and look at women in fetish gear. There was bullet time. It was full of Matrix-universe fluff.

    It sold something like 5 million copies. Shiny (EtM's developer) was rewarded for this success by being purchased by Atari (nee Infogrames).

    I think this games should not have been included on the list of games that killed companies.

  • what, No Cavedog? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gravatron ( 716477 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:54PM (#30836506)
    Seriously, Company started with one of the best RTS ever, Total Annihilation, then followed up with a two expansions, one that added a slew of multiplayer maps and units, and another which added tons of single player maps. Seemed they were destined for greatness.

    Then came TA: Kingdoms. Wow, what a disaster. It was medieval in looks, but played just like any tank based rts. It felt almost like a palette swap, rather then a new game. When it bombed, all other titles got scrapped, even Amen: The Awakening, which sounded phenomenal, so they could rush off and make TA2, which was still years away.

    It should be noted the death of GT Interactive also had it's hand in the death of Cavedog. But had TA: Kingdoms been a better game, they may have had the money to break away and fund the rest of their games.

    I still dream about someone picking up Amen's license and remaking the game. The premise and characters sounded fun.
  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:14PM (#30838696)

    I worked at Atari as a lead tester for the Nintendo titles when they put me on the Driv3r PC title for a few days. I bugged ~200 falling out of the world incidents that were never classified as fixed when the game was released.

    IIRC, either Driv3r PC or another racing title, the developers guessed the bug database password, went in to marked all the bugs fixed, and tried to pushed for code release to save their delivery bonus. The QA team had to re-verify the status of all 4,000 bugs before a code release meeting could be scheduled. The developers and the producer lost their bonuses.

    The good old days at Atari. My first novel that I'm now revising is based on my misadventures at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, two different owners, multiple identity crises). You have never worked in a screwed up company until you spend six years at a video game company.

  • Looking Glass Studios went out of business even though they've produced over half a dozen of the best games of all time. Terra Nova, Thief 1 and 2, System Shock 1 and 2, Ultima Underworld 1 and 2, Car and Driver, Flight Unlimited. Actually, if you find a list of their games you'll see that they didn't really had any failures.

    Black Isle were producing great games and still broke down, although Interplay may not have helped that situation. Troika then died and Obsidian have only really done NWN2, unless you actually want to count unfinished but still released games in KOTOR2.

    People always bitch about good games being ignored nowadays as if it's some sort of new occurrence, and how crap games kill companies if they hit hard enough. But great companies can still die purely because you can create games that are simply too awesome for mainstream gaming to handle.

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