Why Don't the Olympics Translate to Videogames?
Posted by jgaudiosi :: Sports & Video Games
2K Games is the latest publisher to tackle the Olympics. Every two years, it seems like a round-robin tournament as game publishers pick up a one-off license to translate the next winter or summer games into a videogame. At least this year, 2K had the decency to released "Torino 2006" for $20. But even that seems like a steep price for such a mediocre effort. The game has received a pathetic 37 percent average on GameRankings.com.
Why is it that game publishers balk at creating good Olympic videogames? 2K Sports has accelled with its "NHL 2K" and "NBA 2K" franchises. And it's "NFL 2K" franchise forced EA Sports to sign an exclusive NFL license to keep "Madden" king. So how did the "Torino 2006" debacle occur? The game's graphics look about four years old. And, as is the case in every Olympics game, there's no variety in the events. What's billed as 15 unique events is actually only eight. And some of the biggest sports, in terms of what people will watch on NBC, like hockey and figure skating, are nowhere to be found. 2K Sports could have easily ported its hockey engine over, even in a more simplistic form. But the $20 price shows that this game is geared towards the unsuspecting mass market audience that haven't read about how bad this game really is.
And what is the Olympics license anyway? It doesn't include any of the actual athletes likenesses. It doesn't include any NBC broadcasters. It doesn't even include the Olympics anthem! All you get is the name of whatever host city happens to be the center of attention for two weeks. Perhaps that's why game publishers who take a stab at this sports license approach it with such a haphazard attitude.
The goal seems to be an attempt to make as much money from as many sales from unsuspecting consumers as possible in a short window. Because following those two weeks, no one cares about the Olympics. And how can you relive any glory from your country's victories, if the game doesn't allow you to step into the skies or skates of your country's actual athletes?
It's not like good non-licensed Olympic games haven't existed. Konami's "Track and Field" was a hit both at the arcades and on home consoles back in the day. And Commodore 64 had a hit with Acclaim's "Winter Games." It's just a matter of putting some resources into these games.
It seems appropriate, in a way, that the ancient Olympic sports are still stuck in the 1980s when it comes to videogames. Back in the 8-Bit and 16-Bit era, game publishers forked over money for Hollywood movie and TV licenses. Because of limitations of the consoles, all they got was the movie box art to put on the front of the game box art. That attracted mass market gamers. Essentually, the Olympics videogames give you nice box art. But is that worth $20?