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Majesco Fades Away

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Posted by Jeremy on January 24, 2006 10:04 AM
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CNNMoney's "Game Over" columnist, Chris Morris, has a good piece regarding Majesco Game's recent financial troubles and their decision to stop making premium titles, instead refocusing on handheld and value software. Unfortunately for Majesco Psychonauts never found an audience, selling less than 100,000 copies. Add to that the personally disappointing launch of Advent Rising (I had very high hopes for the game), the mediocre BloodRayne 2, and the flop that was Aeon Flux and you can see their woes. However, if only one of those games had been a hit, it probably would have saved the company.

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That brings me to a different point. I constantly read the "chicken or the egg" argument in gaming publications regarding the lack of originality in games. Do game publishers continue to pump out sequels because it's safe, cheap, and easy for them to do so? Or, do the public simply like the sequels because they know what they're getting, therefore, that's what the publishers are delivering? Either way, it leaves little room for innovation in the gaming industry and is a constant complaint of die-hard gamers and game critics.

Psychonauts is often used an example of a great game that the public simply didn't like, giving more weight to publisher's tendency to pump out sequels.

Everybody blames the gaming public for being too stupid to recognize a good game. I'd argue that, in the case of Psychonauts, it is Majesco's fault for not promoting their game effectively.

Games are expensive. As a matter of fact, they are the most expensive digital medium we have (CDs and DVDs don't even come close). The average gamer doesn't have the money to spend on game after game, hoping that the game will be good. Instead, they have to rely on past experiences, therefore, for example, they'll know that they'll like Halo 2 because they liked Halo.

If a publisher publishes a "unique" game like Psychonauts it is up to the publisher to convince the gaming public that the game is worth their $50. In Majesco's case, a few hit and miss TV spots and the normal print campaigns just weren't going to cut it.

Instead, this game needed to have been marketed to the average gamer; yes, the 30 year old gamer. Instead of TV spots on MTV, Comedy Central, Spike TV, etc., the game would have found an audience if it was advertised on more conservative TV like cable news networks and aimed at women gamers on channels like Oxygen and HGTV.

Instead, Majesco played the victim, crying foul that such a great game went unnoticed by the public.

The cost of video games brings me to another point. Why are they so expensive? Yes, I know it costs a ton to develop and publish these games. However, don't you think that if the average price of a AAA title were $25 to $30 instead of $50 the company would sell twice as many and gamers would be more willing to take a risk on a game that they hadn't heard about?

Look at how successful 2K Games was when they launched NFL 2K5 for $19.99. Not only did they sell very well, but they introduced an alternative to Madden to many a gamer; a double whammy.

With next gen games costing some $60, I fear that gamers will continue to have less and less choice.

Unless the Nintendo Revolution does something truly Revolutionary, this next gen cycle will suffer from the same complaints, lack of innovation, and financial burdens of the current gens.

When will they ever learn?

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