Some games just do not help themselves at all. Look at LittleBigPlanet. Over a year of monster hype. Rave reviews across the board. And then what happens at the release? Underwhelming marketing, plummeting chart positions and an overall feeling of "Was that it?"
Games are hampered by their own devs and publishers all the time. And it's not just about marketing. Whether it's through bad planning, one terrible decision or just being completely out of touch during development, many a game has been throttled by its parents before it's had the chance to live. It's sad even when it happens to mediocre titles and it's tragic when it happens to a good one. Here's a car crash run-down of some of the industry's biggest recent birthing failures.
Gran Turismo 5
During preview stage, Gran Turismo 5 was the biggest deal in the history of deals. The screens and videos made even the most car-hating, anti-combustion hippies salivate with motor lust, and it looked like, despite a long wait and a lot of hype, both game and console would be simultaneously justified.
Above: GT5 needs more than just good looks and reputation if it's going to maintain its lead next year
But then, three whole years after the last game, we were rewarded for our patience with but a glorified demo, and a paid-for one at that. We got a po-faced racing experience with a major dearth of spontaneity, and were told to wait even longer for the real game, the one we actually wanted to spend money on. Everything looked great of course, but with stiff racing, undentable bodywork and dull, barely concious rival AI, it was all just so damn sterile. In short, GT5 Prologue was a cold, cold, boring experience. A fact emphasised when just a few months later, along came Codemasters' Race Driver: GRID; a game which appeared from nowhere, was arguably as pleasing to the eye, and which excited the hell out of everyday gamer and hardcore driving freak alike with its pounding thrills and scarily believable AI. Very. Bad. Timing.
Above: Despite the glossy finish, GT5 Prologue was just plain dull compared to GRID
And now we’re told that the full game won’t even be out until next winter. By which time Codemasters will probably have done it again with a new Colin McCrae game and their so-exciting-a-prospect-we-already-stink-of-urine officially licensed F1 game. And although probably much more arcadey, we’ll have a Bond game from the team behind Project Gotham too. It does not, in the slightest way, bode well for GT interest levels by that point. We've all but forgotten what it is already.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
Okay, so you’ve got a 2D fighting game franchise which despite fanboy loyalty amongst certain demographics, has never really been taken particularly seriously by the fighting game community. The series is looking more than a bit tired after a multitude of sequels. A brand relaunch is needed and you want to make a big splash.
Above: Damn right Wonder Woman's raging. She could have been doing this with Ryu a decade ago
What do you do? Release a gimmicky comic book license tie-in which has echoes of an idea your biggest, and much superior, rival did ten whole years ago with Marvel Vs. Capcom? Neglect the fact that said license means you have to strip out everything that made your fanbase love you in the first place? Release it during possibly the biggest hype period we’ve ever seen for a fighting game, one which is centred entirely around said rival’s new titles rather than your own? You do? Yeah, good luck with that.
Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix
As staggeringly good as it is though, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix didn’t do itself any favours either. It’s without a doubt the definitive version of the definitive iteration of the Street Fighter II series thanks to some sublime art direction and the meticulous gameplay tweaks from SFII expert David Serlin, but ironically the time taken to do all of that good work may prove to be its downfall.
Above: Will SFIV knock out SSFIITHDR in February? The hardcore will play both, but it remains to be seen for everyone else
Originally scheduled for release in summer, the game’s delay has seen it thrust onto eager combo merchants just over two months before Street Fighter IV, a glorious fighting game behemoth which has fan and journalist alike almost catatonic in jubilant excitement. Super Turbo HD is selling well, and it deserves to, but we can’t help worrying that once SFIV hits in February, amongst non-completists at least, Serlin’s work is going to be cast aside to collect dust on the hard drives of the world. And that it certainly doesn’t deserve.
Disaster: Day of Crisis
First shown off as part of the Wii’s initial reveal line-up, Disaster was one of the key titles which convinced us that Nintendo’s new machine would usher in a brave new world, shared equally between casual quirk and hardcore purism. But two year later, with Nintendo’s eventual strategy more clear, it wasn’t so much released as smothered with a pillow and quietly stashed in a dumpster under cover of darkness.
Above: Nintendo was hardly shouting from the rooftops about Disaster
Were you even aware that it had been released? Virtual radio silence from Nintendo (seriously, not even a press release to announce the launch and certainly nothing in the way of marketing) meant that even we as games journalists nearly missed the launch completely. No preview code. No review code. As far as product awareness went, we were as clueless as the casual buyers on the street. Disaster was obviously never intended for the Wii Play crowd, but such a veil of apathy did absolutely nothing to help excite the core audience Nintendo still claims to be so passionate about.
Nintendo of America wouldn’t even commit to picking the game up for the US audience until it had seen European sales numbers, but given that the game's treatment led to its failure to even break the UK top forty, we now fear for publisher apathy on the other side of the Atlantic as well.