Tuesday’s distressing Midway news sounded like a death knell. More layoffs. Game cancellations. Attempts to spin a bad situation into a not-so-bad situation. Frankly, Midway’s demise has been a painful one for me to watch because of the company’s nostalgic bond to me. So many Midway coin-ops ate my quarters and tokens while growing up (and beyond):
- Sea Wolf: According to Twin Galaxies, I still hold the world record for this game. A monochrome submarine shooter, the game’s score rolls over at 9,999 points. Sea Wolf is all about timing and memorization.
- TRON and Discs of TRON: These two coin-ops made excellent use of the film assets that they were based on. One arcade that I used to visit had a sweet pesudo-sit down cabinet for Discs of TRON that had pumping sound and a pretty immersive atmosphere.
- Arch Rivals: Before the arrival of NBA Jam, this game was a fun 2-on-2 basketball experience that allowed players to punch each other in order to steal the ball. Of course, punching is now the “in” thing in the NBA… just ask Ron Artest.
- NBA Jam / NHL Open Ice / NFL Blitz series: I won’t rehash what I wrote about these games back in September, but there’s no denying how much money I spent on these games between the coin-ops and home version costs. NHL Open Ice is still the standard for hockey-based arcade games (sorry, NHL Hitz 20-03), and I don’t believe that either NBA Street or NBA Ballers managed to duplicate the magic that NBA Jam and its offspring created.
That’s just a sampling of Midway memories. There are obvious (Mortal Kombat) and not-so-obvious (Gorf) ones, too… but I think that you can see my point about how Midway games were a big part of my gaming life. Unfortunately, Midway never seemed to be able to get past the demise of the video game arcade and spent all of its resources trying (and usually) failing at several different projects in order to try and step out from its coin-op history. Even 21st-century interpretations of Midway classics like Spy Hunter and Gauntlet just fell flat, despite the popular source material. NBA Showtime (the last of the good Jam-based titles) was farmed out to Eurocom for a terrible variation called NBA Hoopz, which was a travesty in every sense of the word– and then Mark Turmell scrapped Jam-style gaming altogether with NBA Ballers, which was only mildly successful.
My big question about Midway’s inevitable shuttering revolves around what will happen to all of the IPs that Midway has under its corporate umbrella. Is it possible that we’ll see more coin-op compilations similar to the Midway Arcade Treasures series if another publisher buys the rights? What will happen to Mortal Kombat– the one Midway franchise that still brings in consistent revenue? What about designers like Ed Boon and Mark Turmell? Where will they end up?
It really doesn’t matter whether or not Midway is able to rescue themselves from the financial armageddon that they find themselves in right now. The game maker will never be the same and has zero chance to recapture even a fraction of the company’s former glory and stature. They’ll be reduced to a footnote in the industry, leaving fond memories for some and a bad taste in the mouths of others. It’s a shame that Midway’s run has come to an end, but an end is where all good things eventually wind up.