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Gaming Not-Quite-Wednesday: Crashing The Party

November 28, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Hello. Let’s discuss rumours today. Because rumours are great fun. But here’s why they shouldn’t be taken seriously under any circumstances.

Back in the nineties, Crash Bandicoot was the man. Essentially acting as Sony’s equivalent to Mario and Sonic, Crash spun his way into people’s hearts and became a figurehead for the console.

Time was not kind to the bandicoot, however. After Sony’s contract with Universal Studios ended, Universal took the franchise while Sony took the developer responsible, Naughty Dog, and they went their separate ways. Naughty Dog produced Jak & Daxter for Sony’s then-new PS2 console, while Crash ended up in rather lacklustre versions of games he’d already been in.

Universal were bought by Vivendi, Vivendi merged with Sierra, Sierra were bought by Activision, leading Crash to end up in the hands of the company that drove Guitar Hero into the ground by releasing far too many games in the series. This bodes well, I’m sure you can see.

Crash Bandicoot fell off the radar. After a string of painfully average titles on the PS2, eventually Activision just stopped commissioning Crash games after 2010, and pretty much cancelled every title that had begun production since 2008. Since then, the bandicoot’s been in limbo while his buddy Spyro The Dragon became some weird purple snot gremlin and ended up in The Most Blatantly Exploitative Franchise Of All Time, Skylanders. Not a good place for either of them, really. Although at least Spyro is still appearing in games.

Meanwhile, Naughty Dog got the better end of the deal. Over the years, they made more Jak games, then moved on the critically-acclaimed Uncharted games and The Last Of Us (both of which made it onto my top 15 PS3 games) and became one of the darlings of the games industry.

Then we get to 2012. Sony announced PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, their equivalent to Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Naturally, everyone expected Crash to turn up there. He didn’t. While a game with very solid fighting mechanics (and I liked it enough to make a video series on it!) there were numerous issues with the game’s roster, Crash’s absence being a very noticeable one.

And so started a debate over Activision’s treatment of the character, and cue many people saying how nice it would be for Sony to just buy the franchise and take him back as their “mascot”.

The PlayStation 4 got announced. Like all console launches, speculation grew rife about what games were being released for the console beyond those shown at launch. Not helping matters was Sony’s very specific marketing, which focused heavily on the past to showcase their future. Crash Bandicoot made several appearances, from the montage at the console reveal, to sound effects from his game appearing in an online “4 The Players Since 1995” advert, to a road sign in the TV ad.

The road sign got people chattering. A white and red sign featured a silhouette of Crash, and was accompanied by two more signs. One was a one-way street arrow, pointing straight upwards. Above that was a yellow diamond, which many pointed out was similar to Sony Computer Entertainment’s logo. It was easy to interpret this to mean “Crash is going to Sony”, ie. that much-desired Sony acquisition of the franchise.

The Internet rumour mills went into overdrive. A guy on YouTube (who I’m not going to link to) started posting videos on an almost daily basis, stating that he’d spoken to Activision employees who were telling him the franchise had moved. People were going nuts. “OMG IT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING” said everyone.

And then Adam Boyes, head of Sony Publisher Relations, took to Twitter and responded to someone discussing the rumour by saying that Activision still owned the IP. Game Informer investigated the rumour and got a quote from an Activision spokesperson that confirmed that they still owned the franchise.

This is where the story gets bizarre. Crash fans took to Twitter, demanding that Game Informer provide proof that this statement came from an actual Activision employee. The random guy on YouTube, however, was not subject to the same scrutiny, even as he loudly proclaimed that a popular gaming magazine was lying while he, a random nobody, was right.

Activision did not help the rumours, since they chose that exact moment to do some reshuffling and tidying up on their website. They also did perform a business deal which caused their name to float around on the patent office files. Crash Bandicoot disappeared from their website, and trademark documents suggested Activision had sold the franchise.

However, investigation proves otherwise. Crash did indeed disappear from their website, but so too did every other game released prior to 2010. With no Crash games released since 2008, all those games were culled from the site, and since none of the games were listed, there was no need for a Crash section, appearing to a casual observer that they no longer owned the franchise.

But further examination of the trademark documents showed that the franchise had not been sold. Instead, it and all other trademarks owned by the company, including huge franchises such as Call of Duty and Skylanders, and even their own name, had been handed over to the Bank of America as a “security interest”.

Put simply, Activision had taken out a loan. For what, it isn’t clear, but what is clear is that Activision still own the rights to Crash Bandicoot, and the Bank of America are only holding onto the deeds for their security to ensure they pay off their loan in a timely fashion. A common business practice. Nothing to make a song and dance over.

Basically, this shows that nobody should trust rumours within the gaming world. Sometimes it’s easy to misinterpret the actions of a company or individual and assume something is happening when it isn’t, especially when wishful thinking is involved. If some guy on the Internet claims to know all the answers, ignore him unless he can prove he knows his stuff, because generally he won’t be able to since he’s making it all up. It’s common sense really that nobody should trust anything unless it’s officially confirmed.

Perhaps we can learn something else here though. This isn’t an isolated incident. The Internet being so excited for the possibility of the resurrection of favourite franchises, and the things that made them so likeable and charming seems to be greater than the excitement for actual game announcements. When every other game is a bland grey shooty-fest fronted by a gruff male protagonist with little to no hair, it’s easy to feel jaded, and maybe it’s time we brought back some of the sheer joy of gaming from the “good old days”. Not necessarily the same ideas, but certainly it’d be nice to get an examination of what made people fall in love so easily with older games that’s missing from modern games.

As for Crash Bandicoot, it’d be absolutely fantastic to see the little guy return. The original trilogy was fantastic and Crash Team Racing was a blast, and the series being rebooted and given a much-deserved new title that sticks to the principles of what made the original games so charming would be a very popular decision. A decision that Activision seemingly don’t want to take, and for reasons nobody knows.

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  1. James
    November 28, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    Part of the problem with a new Crash title is we expect more from our games now, making a reboot of what was quite a simple linear platformer (almost more akin to the run and jump iPhone games than anything else out now) would be difficult to sell on PS4, even with a big face like crash… that said, it becomes a question as to why they haven’t made a crash mobile game now they can feasibly do a 3D platformer on android…?

    I’d be skeptical if it went back to Sony, much like my skepticism of Donkey Kong Country Returns, or Rayman Origins going back to it’s past, but those games two of my (top10) favorite games of last gen, so they could pull it off if the controls and level design were exemplary… but that’s the problem… Activision have CoD and Skylanders, two games specifically designed to make people pay lots of money for very little effort (seriously, CoD’s the same game released ad nauseam), they don’t need to take risks like Ubisoft do (because Ubisoft actually spends money on their games)… and if they did do it, they’d probably cut back and cut back the budget until the dev team couldn’t make a game with solid controls and level design, so it’d end up as bland as the PS2 batch, but even more outdated…

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