We’ve all seen it. We have all even been fooled into getting excited for it. We see the name of something we love being tied to a new game. Whether it is a game from the past being brought back or some franchise outside of gaming being given its first digital life, we are pumped to see what this game has to offer. And then it comes out… and it sucks.
Most recently, I went through this with Fire Pro Wrestling coming to XBLA. Being a longtime fan of pro wrestling and having two of my favorite games ever being wrestling games (WCW Revenge and WrestleMania 2000, both from THQ and the AKI engine) I try to keep up with wrestling games whenever I get the chance.
Right now, options are pretty limited with WWE being the only game in town after Midway’s TNA game was a flop. But there was a bright shimmer of hope when I logged onto XBox Live the other day and saw that Fire Pro Wrestling was up for download on XBLA. I didn’t even read the description. I just clicked right on “Download Trial” without taking a breath.
For those who don’t know, Fire Pro Wrestling is one of the most loved wrestling franchises by the hardcore wrestling fans. It is most well known for having both a fantastic game engine and having rosters of most major professional wrestlers and legends from the major promotions worldwide and just changing the names to avoid copyright issues. It gives players the opportunity to have dream matches that they can never see in real life. But that isn’t what I got. Instead, I got Avatars.
Now, I understand that in every iteration of a franchise, changes must be made. But there is nothing that resembles Fire Pro Wrestling that legitimate gamers and wrestling fans know and love to the oversimplified and cartoon based garbage that I downloaded onto my 360. The art style. The gameplay. The basic premise. All of it is gone. The only thing that remains is the name and that this most recent game “attempts” to be a wrestling game.
After getting through the Avatar and minigame filled trial and being disgusted that the name Fire Pro Wrestling was even associated with this game, I wanted to rip the disc out and snap it in two. Unfortunately because it was a download title, I had to instead settle for very defiantly pressing the delete button to remove it from my hard drive.
Now don’t get me wrong. I get it. Fire Pro Wrestling is a niche title. It is for the combination gamer / hardcore wrestling fan. It isn’t going to be a million selling franchise in the states or going to topple WWE’s hold on the genre. So they wanted to take a new approach and make a casual game that “anyone can enjoy”. But what I don’t get is why you would use the Fire Pro Wrestling name with it? If Fire Pro Wrestling is so niche that you don’t think people are going to buy it, what was the value of using its name on this entirely different game? The people who know Fire Pro Wrestling and how it used to be aren’t going to see this new game and be fooled into thinking it is the same game they used to love.
So now, look at the result. The niche title name Fire Pro Wrestling didn’t increase any of the sales to casual gamers because casual players didn’t recognize it. The gameplay and look of the game didn’t match what previously existing Fire Pro Wrestling fans expect from the name and the change is so drastically different from what they know and expect from the name that they don’t convert to sales either. Some, like myself, now have a bad taste in my mouth and may consciously or subconsciously tune out news about future Fire Pro Wrestling games, even if they return to the franchise’s original style.
In the end, cheap tie-ins and cash-ins do more harm than good. They may make a quick buck on a few people but if the tie-in isn’t a quality one, players are going to find out rather soon. You may be able to fool younger consumers a few times but eventually real gamers are going to figure it out and that’s when you won’t be selling those games anymore.
But, on the bright side, at least it wasn’t Mii’s.