From Rise to Ruin, the story of Acclaim
Posted on Wednesday, December 12 2007 @ 13:54:54 Eastern
Back in 1918, a group known as the Bolsheviks, lead by a man named Vladimir Lenin, stormed the capital of Russia, and in a bloody revolution, took control of the Russian Government. Lenin was a Marxist socialist who wanted to start over in Russia; but he died in 1924 and another man, Joseph Stalin took over.
Stalin ran Russia down a dark path, creating the definition of a Totalitarianism state. Purges of people, murders and censorship, his corruption never helped Russia in the long run, he put the dream that Lenin had on a slope to destruction.
Although this history lesson is probably unwanted, the reason it is brought up is because you can make this parallel to almost any rise and fall story out there. From corrupt governments, shady religious groups, to right wing political parties, these stories all start out the same way, a chance for a change. That is something Acclaim wanted to do, change video games.
Instead of a successful revolt, it became a story of ruin.
Acclaim began in 1987 as part of the original Activision team that broke away from Atari years earlier over a dispute of programmer recognition. Acclaim, hoping to top Activision, decided to create their own empire of video game franchises, and for the first few years it built up it's reserves by localizing oversea games from Japan, creating ports from the arcades, and letting external developers use there skills, like mercenaries in the army, to create video games. The most famous of these are Iguana Entertainment and LJN, both of which Acclaim would soon purchase.
By 1993, Acclaim had enough revenue to begin their dream of surpassing Activision. The success of ported games like Mortal Kombat and the NBA Jam series gave them a lot of revenue, and the company quickly grew, buying off other companies such as those mentioned above, and Sculpted Studios in 1995. They also purchased Valiant Comics, a fledging but popular comic book series with it's own universe of heroes that were slanted towards a more graphic audience. Some of these heroes, most notably Turok and Shadowman, would later on become Acclaim's greatest hits as video games. To this day, Acclaim is one of the few video game makers to attempt to branch off into uncharted territory.
By 1997, however, Acclaim was gaining waning support for its industry. Arcade games were no longer big items in the U.S, so the ports they were used to making were slowly drying up. The comic book industry as a whole suffered a near economic collapse, causing their newest venue to collapse under pressure. To make matters worse, allegations of corruption and misdealings began to cloud over the company. The biggest being the firing of over half the employers of Sculpted Studios.
In 1995, Acclaim gave Sculpted Studios a contract that stated that the employers would be given stock options and be able to stay with the new company. Two years later, Acclaim fired over half of the employers of Sculpted Studios, violating it's own written words. It even added more turmoil in the pot when Acclaim also waivered the options of severance packages; money after you are laid off that should hold you over. Essentially a buyout. If the employers took these packages, they couldn't sue Acclaim for anything. If they did not, they get the boot in the ass on the way out.
This outrage led to a class action lawsuit against Acclaim, and as of 2007, the lawsuit is still unsettled. The lawsuit wants lost stocks to be returned to those fired, as well as compensation for an abrupt firing. Lastly, the lawsuit targets Acclaim CEO and founder Greg Fishbach, as well as executives Edmond Scantcis and Gerald Agoglia as specific men who should pay for their crimes.
Fishbach was one of the original founders of Acclaim back in 1986. Originally from Activision, Fishbach decided to create his own empire in the cartridge industry, forming Acclaim with close friends and hiring young designers to begin his empire. Unfortunately, Fishbach was a poor executive, who commonly made ridiculous business decisions; such as giving away a 500-pound prize in the United Kingdom for the first five families who name their babies “Turok” in 2004.
Acclaim was a sinking ship in 1997. The company would have likely went bankrupt by 2000, but thanks to the smash hit’s “Turok” and “Shadowman”, Acclaim limped on like a wounded animal, earning enough revenue to survive longer in the now extremely competitive market of game publishing. Acclaim would actually create one of the best first person shooters ever created, “Turok 2: Seeds of Evil” in 1998. “Turok 2” would receive the highest honors for Acclaim, and is a true accomplishment in video games.
But the honeymoon would not last. After the jump to the next generation, Acclaim was plagued by poor video game sales and mediocre game titles like “Vexx” “Showdown, Legends of Wrestling” and “Dave Mirra’s BMX.” In fact, Dave Mirra even sued the company for creating “BMX XXX”, a game that the Acclaim developers changed, out of contract, to add topless models to stir up controversy, and in turn boost sales. The trick backfired, not only due to the lawsuit, but also due to the poor gameplay and lack of big chains, like Wal-Mart and Target, for selling the game.
Acclaim’s final nail in the coffin was their final Turok game, “Turok Evolution.” The game did nothing to change the series, but also never improved on anything. With cutting edge first person shooters in the market, such as “Half-Life” and “Halo”, now wowing gamers in the next generation, “Turok Evolution” could not catch up, and was a commercial failure.
Marred by numerous lawsuits, poor business decisions, and by 2004, the writing was on the wall. Acclaim closed down numerous developer studios in the U.K and filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. By September, Acclaim filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy and the deed was finally done.
With a debt of nearly $100 million dollars, Acclaim will not be remembered for “Turok” or for splitting from Activision. Instead, the legacy of Acclaim is a simple tale of rise and ruin, where absolute power corrupts absolutely, and where the dreams of those who wanted to start anew crash and burn under the weight of corruption.
After doing some extra research, I do wish to add some more to this topic.
While it is clear that Acclaim would buckle under the weight of it's corruption, the aftermath of the collapase is just another paragraph of information that should be told. Now in heavy debt, Acclaim sold it's own name and brand for $100,000 to Howard Marks, who is ironically a former CEO of Activision. Marks would creat e Acclaim Games in 2006, a company that would launch free, self advertised MMORPG system that creates free web games like "BOTS","2 Moons" and "9 Dragons". "BOTS", their first release, has already been a success online, with fully costomizeable weaponry and chasis in a "Custom Robo" vein online. A third game, "DANCE!" is also currently being produced.
Since all the products are free, multi-player online games, it is clear that Acclaim Games may have a new life under new leadership. Like Yeltsen in Russia, the change may be a bright future for the name Acclaim Games, although only time will tell, as the scars of the past will no doubt haunt the future of the new company.
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Posted on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 20:14:22 Eastern
Ok i'm not the best poet, but humor me on this one.
Take up arms! Join our cause!
Leave your thoughts with little pause
to change our world we need violence,
to quell the discontent and silence.
Let our voices be heard, joined together,
our actions judged for the better
so change is brought and tyranny destroyed,
so we can live! We must deploy
our might collected, orderly, yet strong.
To fight it out, victory or be gone!
Against oppression, corruption and greed,
To fulfill our passions, wants and needs.
We fight with force, with tooth and nail,
we resist their ways, but to no avail.
The cycle continues, in ebb and flow
as the tyrants sword swings the final blow,
our hopes dashed, our leaders maimed,
they take more from us, keep us constrained,
with every passing second, minute and hour
they regain what they lost; unquestionable power.
But ideas never die, immune to flames and steel,
they live on again, to never bend or kneel.
To the powers that grasp us by the neck
that drive us to chaos, insanity, heck;
they control us for as long as they can,
because the power of one, be woman or man
can break the hold across our throat,
and start again, the long revolt.
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Gamegate: The firing of Jeff Gerstmann
Posted on Friday, November 30 2007 @ 21:11:01 Eastern
It is not everyday so much **** goes on around the world. Evel Kinevil past away today, some nut took over the Clinton campaign building in New Hampshire, Chavez is probably going to win another election, and now this!
By now it's obvious what the news is in the gaming world. Jeff Gerstmann, a longtime reviewer for Gamespot, one of the oldest and, until this moment, more respected and trustworthy game sites out there. Jeff worked at Gamespot for 11 years, a long time reviewer and in my mind, online journalist, who did his job, and did it well.
Let's face it, Gamespot reviews, despite their accuracy, are boring and dry. I read them and sometimes have to stop for a few minutes to collect myself, because I can barely hold my attention that long through such a big article. But Jeff had a knack of making an semi-entertaining review this more akin, honestly, to Gamerevolution. It is funny in a way, because he could mix entertainment value and make great points about the pros and con's of a video game at the same time; something that I struggle to do in my own reviews.
Jeff was not the only one though who did this. Greg Muller, Bob Colayco and Brad Shoemaker also made some entertaining and engaging reviews from time to time. Unfortanatly, Colayco now works for Blizzard entertainment, and Muller left Gamespot for unknown reasons earlier this year. Shoemaker and Gerstmann were the only two I looked forward to now, with Gerstmann a very popular and high profile writer on Gamespot.
Since Jeff was fired, outrage has spilled across the major gaming websites, from IGN to Gamefaqs to even here. Fans of Jeff's writings are calling for him to be re-hired, while others are calling for Gamespot to be taken down. The dichotomy of feelings the fans, readers, aspiring journalists, and overall gamers have right now is fueled more by outrage over pure emotion, and I can guarentee people will be calling for the head of Josh Larson.
Who is Josh Larson, you may be asking? Well, Larson is the new Executive Editor of the Gamespot website, owned by C-Net, a giant conglomerate with ton's of money in the bank. Larson replaced Greg Kasavin, who is now an employer for EA, in this position a year ago, and since that time, the wall between the critics and the publishers has crumbled faster than the one in Berlin.
The following is a quote from an anonymous worker at Gamespot, taken from an interview on Valleywag.com. While I cannot say for sure the validity of this entire article, I post it here as mere evidence of what is likely the case.
The link, by the way, is found here: http://valleywag.com/tech/jeff-gerstmann/gamespot-editor-on-fired-writer-328775.php
"We're very clear in our review policies that all reviews are vetted by the entire team before they go live - everything that goes up is the product of an entire team's output. Our freelancers are especially guilty of making snide comments, but those are always yanked before the review goes live, because everyone in the office reads these reviews and makes sure they're up to our standards before they get put up.
If there was a problem with his reviews, then it would've been a problem with the entire team. Firing him without telling anyone implies that anyone else on this team can be fired at the drop of a hat as well, because none of us are writing any differently or meaner or less professionally than we were two years ago before the management changed. I'm sure management wants to spin this as the G-Man being unprofessional to take away from the egg on their face that results after a ten-year employee gets locked out of his office and told to leave the premises and then no one communicates anything to us about it until the next day.
This management team has shown what they're willing to do. Jeff had ten years in and was **** locked out of his office and told to leave the building.
What you might not be aware of is that GS is well known for appealing mostly to hardcore gamers. The mucky-mucks have been doing a lot of "brand research" over the last year or so and indicating that they want to reach out to more casual gamers. Our last executive editor, Greg Kasavin, left to go to EA, and he was replaced by a suit, Josh Larson, who had no editorial experience and was only involved on the business side of things. Over the last year there has been an increasing amount of pressure to allow the advertising teams to have more of a say in the editorial process; we've started having to give our sales team heads-ups when a game is getting a low score, for instance, so that they can let the advertisers know that before a review goes up. Other publishers have started giving us notes involving when our reviews can go up; if a game's getting a 9 or above, it can go up early; if not, it'll have to wait until after the game is on the shelves.
I was in the meeting where Josh Larson was trying to explain this firing and the guy had absolutely no response to any of the criticisms we were sending his way. He kept dodging the question, saying that there were "multiple instances of tone" in the reviews that he hadn't been happy about, but that wasn't Jeff's problem since we all vet every review. He also implied that "AAA" titles deserved more attention when they were being reviewed, which sounded to all of us that he was implying that they should get higher scores, especially since those titles are usually more highly advertised on our site.
I know that it's all about the money, and hey, I like money. I like advertising because it pays my salary. Unfortunately after Kasavin left the church-and-state separation between the sales teams and the editorial team has cracked, and with Jeff's firing I think it's clear that the management now has no interest at all in integrity and are instead looking for an editorial team that will be nicer to the advertisors.
When companies make games as downright contemptible as Kane and Lynch, they deserve to be called on it. I guess you'll have to go to Onion or a smaller site for objective reviews now, because everyone at GS now thinks that if they give a low score to a high-profile game, they'll be **** Everyone's **** scared and we're all hoping to get Josh Larson removed from his position because no one trusts him anymore. If that doesn't happen then look for every game to be Game of the Year material at GameSpot."
It is clear, to me and hopefully the hundreds of grieving and angered fans, game reviewers, and overall hardcore gamers that the state the video game industry is in now is deteriorating swiftly. Like the chruch interfering with the government, certian policies in business are beginning to mesh with the video game industry, and on many fronts.
Game reviewing is just one aspect that is being affected. The cost of making games has rised ten-fold since 1996, and big name companies now expect every game they make to be a blockbuster of some kind, even if it's mediocre like Kane and Lynch. When the publishers of these games begin to interfere with every aspect of the game they want published, it can make not only the games go down in terms of overall quality, but also the people involved in the process, from the programmers to the game critics. The more money involved, the more nervous publishers get, even though they have billions in reserves to keep themselves in shape, unless your as corrupt as Acclaim was. Hell, how do you think Nintendo survived it's dark age of the Gamecube for six years?
Since when did videogames become a facist business. The people with the money seem to take charge of the situation, even though they have no idea what they are doing, and dictate everything so that the consumers can willing purchase stuff that turns out to be junk? Why is this happening to an industry almost all of us grew up in? All of us who read these blogs or write these user reviews care about games in some form or another. Obsession no, more like passion and hobby for us.
And in the end, the biggest loser is Jeff Gerstmann himself. He loses his job for being a journalist and a critic. Money may talk in this industry now, but honest workers like Jeff need a job somewhere. If not for anything else, this is what Jeff deserves, because if this incident is an indication of the future for not only Gamespot, but for the entire industry of video games itself, then we are settling into a dark age indeed for our passions.
So Jeff Gerstmann, you gain all the respect and praise that I can offer, and I am sure everyone else on this forum would say the same for you. Thank you for being an honest and entertaining reviewer, game critic, and overall funny guy. I tip my hat to you, and hope that you find a nice job that is away from these petty politics of these fledging corporate beaurocracies that do nothing but spew hypocritical bullshit down all our throats. Hell, I am sure Gamerevolution would welcome you to the fold, no doubt about that. At least here, for now, is untouched by this deadly posion that is plaguing the video gaming world.
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Quality on the rise
Posted on Wednesday, November 28 2007 @ 15:48:20 Eastern
It seems like suddenly, after three years of the Game Revolution Beta, the member reviews are picking up. Gone are the constant A+ games that have just three sentences of barely readable praise over some aspect of the game that is liked, and inste... read more...
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Posted on Tuesday, November 20 2007 @ 21:17:39 Eastern
After a class on Robert Frost in my English class, I felt compelled to write a poem. So, I wrote this little ditty.
I guess the fact that Thanksgiving is coming soon I felt compelled to write a poem about food. Enjoy.
A Boun... read more...
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A Crisis Adverted
Posted on Sunday, November 18 2007 @ 22:12:09 Eastern
Last night a friend of mine had a birthday party, and we basically got wasted. The problem though, is he passed out and was in such a bad shape, he had to be rushed to the hosptial as a precaution.
It was bad, because I was so wasted, more... read more...
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Fanboyism and the Ongoing War
Posted on Saturday, November 17 2007 @ 15:24:43 Eastern
Why is it that every year, we have the soldiers of the console wars sling mud and abuses at each other in every forum on every website around the world? What causes this fervor of fanaticism for something that is as crazy as loving the game system th... read more...
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Posted on Sunday, October 28 2007 @ 13:04:10 Eastern
Two costume parties in two days, and I think I have been drunk for nearly 24 hours. It is kind of a bad thing, because drinking that much of alcohol should kill a man, I guess.
Both parties were fun too. One was for a friend moving ... read more...
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The Rise and fall of the Atari Empire
Posted on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 06:39:23 Eastern
History is a funny thing. It never ends, it’s never predictable, and sometimes, the course of history can be traced to singular events in the timeline of the grand scheme of things. The ebb and flow of history just as str... read more...
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Posted on Sunday, October 14 2007 @ 08:56:00 Eastern
Tomorrow is my 21st birthday, and I officially feel old now.
So damn old....ugh. No longer am I a child, but I am now nothing but a man, a young, semi-healthy, game playing man who is almost done with College and now almost ready for the r... read more...
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