What’s In a Name?

20 06 2008


Recently I read this article on Joystiq (who sourced Game Daily), the article was titled “Boom Blox a bust at retail, sells only 60k units” and talked about how even though Boom Blox was critically acclaimed, it has sold very poorly. My reaction to this is: Of course no one bloody bought it! It’s called ‘Boom Blox’ for christ sake!

Look, at some point during the process of a game finding it’s way from a publisher, via the local game store and onto a shelf in someone’s living room, there is going to be someone who knows absolutely nothing about the game other than it’s name who has to make a decision about it. All this theoretical chump has to go on is a single name “Boom Blox”. Maybe this person is the guy who does the ordering for your store, or maybe it’s a confused parent trying to find a game for their hyperactive kiddies, or maybe it’s just another average uninformed member of the proletariat. Whoever it is, it’s the majority of people, but certainly not anyone who has found their way to reading these words. What’s like to happen upon seeing the words “Boom Blox” is that their eyes will continue on to find other better words to read.

So what’s wrong with the name? It makes it sound like a shit-ass piece of goddam shovelware, that’s what’s wrong with it! I’m not denying that ‘Boom Blox’ does reasonably accurately describe the contents of the game, but that doesn’t stop it from sounding terrible. Also, ‘Blox’? Really? Actually, Boom Blox’s problems go even further than that. I had heard the game described numerous times, stared at multiple screenshots and even watched videos, but at no point did I really ‘get it’ until I actually sat down and played it. But that’s beside whatever the point I am trying to make is. The name is the first stumbling block that doomed it to financially unviable sales mediocrity via the following process…

Let’s start with the manager guy, he’s probably hung-over and it’s that time of the week where he finds himself staring at a printout of upcoming games. Lodged between ‘Atari – My Horse and Me’ and ‘Crave Entertainment – George of the Jungle and the Search for the Secret’ he spots ‘EA Games – Boom Blox’. This guy doesn’t follow games, he hasn’t heard of it, he doesn’t know Steven Speilberg is involved. What he does know is that good games have names like “God of War”, “Call of Duty” or “World of Warcraft”, or they have “Mario” in them somewhere. Games with names like “Boom Blox” just sit around gathering mounds of dust and being laughed at by chavs, so the theoretical manger who might of otherwise written ‘hundreds and hundreds!’ in the ordering number column sighs heavily and writes ‘two-ish’.

Next we come to the average joe. At least he has more to work with than just the rubbish name. He has a whole piece of box art to work with!

Yeah… the dude probably doesn’t even notice Steven Spielberg name written on there in tiny letters, and it’s not like that’s necessarily going to do it as the guy remembers watching ‘AI’ and isn’t eager to repeat that mistake. Anwyay, this game has poor box art from the point of view of actually trying to convince anyone to pick it up, though that’s not to say it’s misrepresentative or anything. So a combination of a poor name and poor picies will lead to less copies being in stores, and less chance that anyone is actually going to consider buying this.

For those of you who remain unconvinced, I would like to draw your attention to “Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure” which suffered the exact same fate a few months ago. It did excellently in the media, terrible in the stores. Why? Well obviously the name is horrible and unwieldy, the box art is a bit like this:

That’s not going to convince anyone, dammit!

Another example would be Beautiful Katamari…

The sales clerk looked at me like I had said the most hilarious series of words he had heard in ages when I asked if Beautiful Katamari was in stock yet. Again, if you are familiar with the Katamari series it’s fine and pretty much what you’d expect. It’s just please don’t start whining when it doesn’t sell very well.

Oh yeah, there was also ‘Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords’. I remember looking for this game when it came out. I think most stores in central london must of gotten about 3 copies in, and once again I blame this entirely on it’s godawful name. Breaking the trend, Puzzle Quest did actually do quite well, though that’s mostly because it was released on every platform that has ever existed, and people eventually people started saying “Oh, puzzle QUEST! Right!”. The name certainly didn’t do it any favours.

What am I suggesting? I don’t know, use common sense or something. They could try going out into the street and asking people ‘Would you buy a game called Beautiful Katamari?’ and judge their reaction. Or I guess they could use the ‘x of y’ format. Though we would end up with “Cubes of Death”, “Island of Treasure”, “Quest of Puzzles” and “Sphere of Shit”.





Game Over?

13 03 2008

I just died in a JRPG…. it said “Game Over” and everything! I’d almost forgotten what this was like…

This bastard totally bloody killed me. The Cunt.

A wise man once said “I have been shot down at the first hurdle.”, these words nicely sum up the situation. Kaim the Immortal sets off on a quest to discover a thousand years past and the secret behind his immortality, but barely makes it over the first mountain range when a giant dragon named Grilgan shows up. Despite Kaim’s best efforts to exploit it’s weakness to fire attacks, Grilgan spams an attack that damages all members of Kaim’s party for over 200 HP, 3 turns in a row, and they all fall down dead. So much for being immortal…

Would you like to continue from the last Checkpoint?

Yes <-
No

Perhaps this is actually the true nature of his immortality. When I one day die, I will look out for this prompt too.

Anyhoo.

I’ve been reading a lot of opinion about Lost Odyssey recently. One thing that has repeatedly cropped up is how this game is apparently a step back for the JRPG genre. I assume that the last JRPG any of these reviewers played was Final Fantasy 12. For those of you who don’t know, FF12 dropped turn-based combat in favour of a more real time affair like an MMORPG. For some reason everyone decreed this as revolutionary (Hey guys, ever played the .Hack games? No? oh), and apparently any JRPG that dares use a traditional combat system is some sort of primitive throwback.

For some reason it didn’t occur to them that FF12’s combat system wasn’t really all that great. It didn’t give you enough direct control over your party to play effectively, so all actions had to be automated. You could program the AI of every member of your team, so they would heal if their health dropped below 50%, use antidote if poisoned, regain mana if out of mana, attack leaders target, etc. All you the player was left to do was hold down the analogue stick in the direction of the thing you wanted to die. The game bloody well played itself. Was this really better? Really? Really, really?

Thank Christ that the people at Mistwalker realise that while FF12 was neat, it was sort of a totally different genre to the first 10 Final Fantasy games, and wasn’t really going to become the norm for the genre. Did everyone stop making 2d platform games when Mario 64 came out? (Don’t answer that).

Another thing that seems to burst forth from drooling fingers of reviewers of this game is a phrase along the lines of “JRPG haters will just find more things to complain about here, but fans of the genre will love it.”. Wow man, that’s fucking deep. What awesome logic. People who hate JRPGs will hate this JRPG? Brilliant!

Are people who don’t like these games studiously buying and playing each one, declaring it to be shit, but then saying to themselves, “Maybe the next one will convince me!”. I can only assume so.

Bonus Except from Review of Gran Turismo 5 –
“Driving game haters will not like this driving game, but fans of the genre will be right at home.”