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Insert Quarter: The Rise and Fall of THQ’s Empire

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Insert Quarter is our showcase for some of the best and most interesting writing about video games on the Internet.

Gamers often didn’t know what to make of THQ. The publisher built its empire on the backs of tie-in games based on Nickelodeon and Pixar properties such as SpongeBob SquarePants and The Incredibles. But they also produced intriguing original games such as Saints Row: The Third and Darksiders. They were even the initial driving force behind Evolve, one of 2015’s most anticipated games. But that all changed when the company went bankrupt early last year.

So what happened? Tracey Lien, writing for Polygon, set out to discover the answer by talking to as many former THQ employees as she could including the charismatic (but possibly crazy) Danny Bilson. Her portrait of a publisher in free fall makes you wonder, could anything have been done?

Many blame the company’s fall on the licensed games well drying up. Some pin it on the commercial failure of the company’s uDraw tablet for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Others point to poor management and too many risky bets.

“There isn’t any one, isolated event that killed the company,” says a former THQ executive who asked to not be named. “This was one of the most successful video game businesses in America. We were a billion dollar company. It was complicated.”

THQ suffered a “death by a million spider bites,” the executive says.

The full article is available for your perusal at Polygon.

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Insert Quarter: Unreleased Games and the People Who Trade Them

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Insert Quarter is our showcase for some of the best and most interesting writing about video games on the Internet.

Unreleased games will always be of interest to gamers. Who among us wouldn’t be interested in Nintendo’s 64DD version of Mother 3 or Free Radical’s late, lamented Star Wars: Battlefront 3. But these games have managed to live on thanks to a shadowy network of collectors and archivists who trade and preserve the neglected pieces of gaming history. Kotaku UK’s Leon Hurley sought out some of these amateur historians to get the complete story on the trading of unreleased games:

You’ve probably seen videos of unannounced or cancelled games. Not necessarily the older retro stuff, but more recent things like Star Wars Battlefront 3 or Stranglehold 2. Did you know there’s a keen, and occasionally zealous, culture of collectors and traders passing these things around?

[…]

There are many levels to all this. Some simply collect and play the games, others code and and hack, extracting fresh info from old files or reinstating missing features. There’s even a community quite happily extracting and modding Halo maps. For others it’s about preserving the often transient world of video game history.

The full article is available at Kotaku UK.

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Insert Quarter: Remembering the Best Instruction Booklets Ever

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Insert Quarter is our showcase for some of the best and most interesting writing about video games on the Internet.

Creating a beautiful and engaging instruction booklet has become a lost art in today’s go-go world of downloadable games and extensive in-game tutorials. Some, like Yacht Club Games and their awesome booklet for Shovel Knight, are attempting to keep the practice alive. But it seems like a foregone conclusion that the instruction booklet will have breathed its last in the not-too-distant future.

Thankfully, Jason Dafnis of Game Informer took some time out of his day to honor ten of his favorite instruction booklets, manuals, and strategy guides:

Let me spin you a yarn. Times were, you’d open that brand-new cardboard (or plastic) box and there, nestled right next to your cartridge (or disc), would be a booklet. Yes, a booklet – paper pages stapled together that told you how to play the game (and sometimes more). Remember those?

Now the left (or right) side of your game case sits bare or thinly veiled with tie-in ads or DLC codes. Those clippies that once held your booklet are all but obsolete. Booklets might not be completely extinct, but they are on the way out. Here are ten of our favorites in no particular order.

The full article is available at Game Informer.

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Insert Quarter: Video Game Titles Have Gotten Ridiculous

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Insert Quarter is our showcase for some of the best and most interesting writing about video games on the Internet.

Video game titles have gotten ridiculous. I think I really noticed it earlier this year when Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix decided use Rise of the Tomb Raider as the title of the next game in the series. I’d gotten my fill of the word “rise” (and its variants) after being subjected to The Dark Knight Rises, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Hannibal Rising, and many others at the movie theater. Especially because very few of the people or groups who are supposed to rise in those movies actually do!

Destructoid’s Steven Hansen shares my pain and has put together his own list of words that need to be stricken from game titles. Unsurprisingly, it all loops back to Call of Duty:

Lords of the Fallen and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare just came out and they should be laughed out the damn building for their horrible, generic videogames names.

I originally typed “Armored Warfare” and was confused when Google failed to bring up results for our “Call of Duty: Armored Warfare” review. Then I realized it was “Advanced Warfare” after remembering I kept getting it confused with Advance Wars originally.

DO YOU SEE THE PROBLEM?

You can read the rest of the article at Destructoid.

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New Releases: Halo Master Chief Collection, AC: Unity/AC: Rogue, Lego Batman 3, More

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With Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare‘s launch behind us, game publishers have moved forward with a massive amount of mid-November releases. Chief among them (that’s right, I went there) is Microsoft’s Halo: The Master Chief Collection, an Xbox One repackaging of Halo: Combated Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4. More Achievements than you could ever ask for and four of the best shooters to ever grace a gaming system. Not a bad deal. Also available this week is a double shot of Assassin’s Creed from Ubisoft. Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (PS3, Xbox 360) closes the book on the franchise’s “Americas” saga while Assassin’s Creed: Unity (PC, PS4, Xbox One) shifts the series to the French Revolution.

The remaining new releases can also be slotted into several long-running franchises including WB’s Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham (3DS, PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One), Sega’s Sonic Boom two-fer (Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric on the Wii U and Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal on the 3DS), Bandai Namco’s Tales of Hearts R (Vita), and Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One).

Finally this week, Blizzard is back with another World of Warcraft expansion… World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor.

A complete list of this week’s new releases can be found after the break. (more…)

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Insert Quarter: A Profile of the Video Game Archivists at the Library of Congress

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Insert Quarter is our showcase for some of the best and most interesting writing about video games on the Internet.

With more than 6,000 titles, the Library of Congress is home to one of the largest video game archives in the world. But the curation and management of the collection is in the hands of just four part-time employees. BuzzFeed’s Joseph Bernstein reached out to these four men to learn how the Library of Congress is attempting to preserve America’s gaming heritage and how much more still needs to be done:

No, the work of game copyrighting and archiving at our country’s signal institution for cultural preservation is not done by a dedicated full-time staff. Instead, it’s the passion project of a handful of archivists who want to be the new standard-bearers in the preservation of video games. Indeed, the state of video game collection at the Library is something of an expression of the liminal state of video games in American popular culture writ large. The Library recognizes the cultural importance of video games, but only devotes four people part-time to their archiving; Game companies insist that their products are the medium of the future, but don’t trust archives with their source code; Collectors sell their troves on Craigslist and eBay rather than considering donation.

Even to get to this point, though, has been a journey in and of itself.

You can read the rest of the article at BuzzFeed.

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Insert Quarter: The History of Music Games

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Insert Quarter is our showcase for some of the best and most interesting writing about video games on the Internet.

Almost 50 years ago, Paul and Art Garfunkel asked, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” in their hit song, “Mrs. Robinson.” DiMaggio would later tell Simon that he hadn’t gone anywhere, even though his playing days were long behind him. Likewise, today’s gamers have probably asked themselves, what happened to all the music games? The conventional wisdom says that they just don’t sell anymore, but who can turn down an invitation to rock out with your plastic guitar out?

IGN’s Chris Reed dug in to the history of the music from its humble roots (1996’s PaRappa the Rapper) all the way through the Guitar Here/Rock Band rivalry and into the future of the genre:

Music/rhythm games have run a surprisingly dynamic path through gaming history. Some genres drift into popularity and gradually fade out as technology and popular taste change. You might not even realize it’s happened until one day you look around and wonder, for instance, where all the 3D platformers went. Music games, on the other hand, moseyed along under the radar for the better part of a decade before taking off like a shot, attaining meteoric success before drying up nearly all at once.

You can read the rest of the article at IGN.

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Madden NFL 15 spikes the competition by outselling all games in August 2014

maddnenfl15-boxEven though his stance said, “stop,” Richard Sherman took it to the house as the cover athlete of Madden NFL 15. While it’s too early to be concerned with The Curse, EA Sports’ latest football sim, as expected, toppled the competition and emerged as the best-selling game of August 2014, according to The NPD Group.

Only a small number of new releases made their way onto store shelves last month and many of them were re-releases of older titles. This tactic helped Diablo III: Reaper of Souls reach the #2 spot as the “Ultimate Evil Edition” is now available for previous-generation and current-generation consoles. And thanks to its PlayStation debut, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare cracked the top ten for the first time at #7.

Joystiq posits that this lack of major releases is the reason why game sales were down when compared to last August. The eighth month of 2013 saw the release of Madden NFL 25 as well as Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Saints Row IV, and Disney Infinity.

A full look at the top ten best-selling games of August 2014 can be found after the break. (more…)

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