There was the home mortgage bubble, the coming gold bubble but before those, there was the Full Motion Video [FMV] game bubble. The days of FMV games comes from a time when consoles and home computers were starting to develop beyond their 16-bit or processor constraints but the technologies to take advantage of their advancements were still early stages. FMV games were the short term answer to what to do with new found gaming power that could make use of Laserdiscs and CDs.
The marketing ploy was in the title of the technology. “FULL MOTION VIDEO! It’s a movie, it’s a game and you are the star!” The reality was, most of the time, it was a B-movie and you were the unhappy audience. Just let the Rob Schneider (Yes, Deuce Bigalow himself) voiced game A Fork in the Tale tempt you.
The FMV explosion came with some actual gems like Dragon’s Lair (thanks to ex-Disney animator Don Bluth) and Wing Nuts: Battle in the Sky, whose quality existed in the game play and the game play video – but perhaps not the acting. The majority of the herd, however, involved experiences where the player was more or less a viewer rather than an interactive gamer. A fine example of this quasi-interactive based gaming experience can be seen in Road Avenger (originally released by Data East as Road Blaster in 1985), which received broad exposure thanks to FMV game “leader” Sega CD.
Also, from a pop-culture perspective, the FMV game bubble provides us with hours of YouTube hilarity. As was the case in the aforementioned Schneider shit-storm, poor acting seemed to be a staple in the majority of FMV games. One of the best/worst examples of this “acting” is American Laser Games’ 1990 arcade shooter Mad Dog McCree (subsequently released on Sega CD, PC, CD-i, Mac and 3DO).
Everyone wanted in on the boom but not everyone survived it. Any River Entertainment, publisher of A Fork in a Tale, closed its doors before the game was released. Data East of Road Blaster fame survived much longer than its competition and, after restructuring in 1999, finally died out in 2003. Data East’s demise was tied in more to the demise of arcades and had less to do with the FMV craze. American Laser Games survived into the late 90s and made attempts to stay commercially successful by tapping into the short lived 3DO market. Cinematronics Incorporated (no relation to Cinematronics, LLC), publisher of the Dragon’s Lair series, was purchased, renamed and purchased again and contains no original aspects of the company that started in 1975. Rocket Science Games, developer of Wing Nuts: Battle in the Sky, initially received backing from Sega Enterprises and broad critic approval but ultimately closed its doors in 1997.
With the boom of FMV games came little success but the impact on gaming is still felt today. Join me next week nerd herd as we speak with friend and fellow wing nut, Lee Montgomery, about his time spent in the FMV game bubble.