In my younger years, I couldn’t purchase the next triple-a first person shooter [FPS] quick enough and most of the time I would purchase them without reading a single review. All it would take was a Michael Bay like game trailer with explosions and in-game footage of heavy firefights to convince me I needed to buy the advertised game.
What it took to sale a game to me in the mid to late 90s was fairly simple. To get me to spend a little money all you had to do was make sure the FPS was visually appealing, show that visually appealing aspect in a trailer and make sure when people/monsters died, they died with plenty of giblets (giblets in the video game world are the chunks of body parts that are the repercussion of you, the player, shooting a person/monster – see video below). It also didn’t hurt to be a FPS game with gun heavy box art that was conveniently positioned next to a triple-A shooter that had an “oh shit” trailer – it would get purchased merely by association.
My haphazard purchasing based off game trailers with a nice pair of fake tits (i.e. visually appealing) and triple-a marketing showmanship came to an abrupt end with the purchase of the now infamous Daikatana. Daikatana was John Romero’s personal baby. Coming off his successes with id Software and the likes of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake, John Romero started his own development company Ion Storm. Daikatana was supposed to be the first blockbuster game out of Ion Storm’s Dallas office (finally released in May 2000 after the initial plans of releasing Holidays 1997) and was meant to be their flagship, instead it was the torpedo that started their company to take on water. A marketing campaign started to tout the game as the second coming and journalist got caught up in the hype. For me, it was another potentially exciting shooter that I wanted to get my hands on and create giblets with. It ended up being the game that instigated a change in my buying habits. It was a dated looking game once it came out, the enemy and sidekick AI was horrid and frustrating (see video below) and the game just wasn’t any fun.
Looking back, Daikatana served a much greater purpose than just being a disappointment. It demonstrated to the gaming world, and especially to the reporters who worked in it, that hype could poison their industry too. It also sparked change to how the gaming industry did their marketing and increased the appreciation of game critics amongst gamers. The most relatable change, however, was the one it had on me. I became a more sophisticated purchaser of CPU games and I also started to delve deeper into the video game world of critics, E3s and gaming publications. Daikatana, one of the hugest disappointments in video game history, made me a better PC gamer.
Soon after the Daikatana failure there was a shift in how games where presented to the potential gaming public. Commercials became smarter, funnier and better at capturing the attention of the young and old. The first game I noticed to market in a new and exciting way was Diablo II from Blizzard. Its commercials (see below) were more than just a Michael Bay trailer and the story aspects of the game were focused on creating interest without having to show giblets and death set to heavy metal music. Daikatana may have sucked more than Tonya Harding at the Olympics but at least it served a greater purpose in its failure.