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The State of Adventure Gaming


By Randy Sluganski
October 2001

ADVENTURE - THE GENRE THAT DOES SELL

This month we have expanded our most popular feature to include not only the monthly sales figures, but also the year-to-date figures. Once again all figures are from PC Data and do not include online or OEM sales. August is traditionally the worst month of the year for game sales, but as usual adventure game sales chug along at a steady rate, never showing a spectacular month but accumulating respectable sales figures over the course of the year. Take note of the sales figures for The Mummy, a five-year old game that continues to ride the coattails of the successful movie franchise and take special notice of the best-selling adventure game for the month of August for we'll be talking about it in a moment:

 
August 2001
Year-to-Date 2001
Kings Quest VIII: Mask Of Eternity
Myst 3 Exile
Mummy/Frankenstein Bundle
Clue II - Murder At Boddy Mansion
Alone In The Dark 4: The New Nightmare
Nancy Drew: Message In A Haunted Mansion
Riddle Of The Sphinx
Dracula: Last Sanctuary
Longest Journey
Beyond Atlantis
Crystal Key
Myst: Masterpiece Ed
Traitors Gate
Myst 3 Exile Collectors Ed
Escape From Monkey Island
Real Myst
19,484
15,466
11,032
6,560
5,631
5,609
4,979
4,504
4,264
3,870
3,121
2,690
2,499
2,388
2,365
1,956
32,544
139,727
31,241
57,085
18,484
35,348
51,554
38,694
49,193
59,600
56,356
20,738
32,454
36,696
24,911
34,951

EVERYTHING OLD SHALL BE NEW AGAIN

Wow! Did anyone notice the sales figures for King's Quest VIII: Mask of Eternity? How does a game released almost 3 years ago end up as the top-selling adventure game of the month and the 19th best-selling game for August? How about this for a theory: since Just Adventure has been sponsoring the King's Quest remake, it has had over 20,000 downloads! What if many of the adventure fans playing and enjoying the remake had never played any of the previous games in the King's Quest series as they are no longer available. What if these same people were then browsing in Best Buy or Wal-Mart and saw King's Quest VIII: Mask of Eternity on sale for $19.99 and figured, "Hey, I liked that other King's Quest game I downloaded, maybe I'll like this one also." One more what if: what if all of this renewed interest stemming from a remake of an old-fashioned point-and-click game and a webzine considered insignificant due to its subject matter spurred a renewed interest at Sierra for a King's Quest VIX? What if indeed.

FOLLOW THE SKID MARKS

Two crazed fans from Massachusetts and Florida recently showed up at the Just Adventure headquarters and, after knocking down my office door, proceeded to snip off my Just Adventure boxer shorts after subjecting me to an Atomic Wedgie (thank goodness that's all they snipped!). Apparently dismayed by recent newsletter reports in which I vowed to never remove my ultra-comfortable Just Adventure boxer shorts the two thieves were reported to be heard screaming something about a "stench that emanated all the way down to Florida" while crazily waving the shorts above their heads. Good thing I can order another pair from the online JA Merchandise catalogue and begin another marathon wearing session. (the JA Merchandise catalogue will be back online soon!)

WATCH AS MY HEAD EXPLODES

Probably the biggest problem we, as an adventure site, face is a lack of knowledge from other areas of the industry. Take for example many of the companies that develop console games. Most of them don't have a clue as to what constitutes an adventure game and when they do produce such a game they then don't have a clue as to how to market it outside of console gaming magazines and fanboy sites. So please, join me now as I take you inside a private conversation with the public relations representative of a large console company that begins with the letter 'C' and ends with the letter 'M' (and has an 'apco' in between):

Me: Hi, I'm the editor of Just Adventure, the largest adventure gaming site in the history of the world and I was wondering if we could get a review copy of your wonderful new game, "Something Something 2" (actually my opening spiel is much longer, but you get the idea).

PR Dunderhead: You're who? What's a Just Adventure?

Me: (after repeating my entire spiel) Look, I'm not trying to hit you up for every game you publish, just this one game that would interest our readers.

PR Dunderhead: Do you belong to any groups or organizations?

Me: What?

PR Dunderhead: (audible sigh and then speaking slowly like I'm the one who is stupid) Do you belong to IGN or UGO?

Me: No and we never will. Neither group wants anything to do with an adventure site and besides why would I want to belong to UGO a group that has Gary Coleman as a spokesperson and sponsors sites like 'Fat Chicks in Party Hats?' or IGN with all of their wrestling and 'hot chick' sites?

PR Dunderhead: (speaking even slower now) Right. Well how about you just e-mail me all of your pertinent information and I'll see what we can do. You do understand that we have a lot of magazines and sites to take care of, but we'll keep in touch (translation: even if we did have any review copies remaining after supplying 'Little Johnnie's PS2 Hot Picks' and 'PS2 Rulz!' with their copies, we would use them as Frisbees before we gave them to an adventure site).

Me: Well, thank you. It has been a pleasure (translation: I know your MTV-addled brain can't sustain a conversation longer than 3 or 4 sentences and besides if you continue to chew your bubble gum in my ear I may attempt to 'reach out and touch someone').

Scott Adams, creator of the classic computer game Adventureland and the more recent Return to Pirates Island 2 visited the University of Wisconsin for a panel on "Storytelling and Computer Games: Past, Present and Future." The full-text transcript and audio downloads can be found at XYXXY and is a great read and listen. If you are at interested in the history of adventure gaming, then this is a must-read article. (thanks to JA reader Munly Leong for pointing out the article)

I'VE SEEN THE LIGHT!

As JA readers know, adventure gamers are not a group easily swayed by eye candy. That though is about to change. I recently had the opportunity to play the CD-version of Schizm and while the graphics were nice, it was still a case of 'been there, seen that.' Soon after Dreamcatcher shipped me the double-sided DVD-version of Schizm and let me tell you - I'm still picking my jaw up off the floor!

Besides the awe-inspiring graphics, there are also a few other differences between the two versions. The DVD Schizm has one more puzzle than the CD-version and there are also more full-motion-videos that help to expand upon the storyline. Sound effects and music are also much improved.

If you have a DVD player on your computer, do yourself a favor and purchase the DVD-version of Schizm and if your local store is not carrying it, then demand that they do or take your business elsewhere. After all, it is your gaming dollars that drive the industry.

THEY'VE SEEN THE LIGHT TOO!

I'm sure many of you will think it a cold day in Hell, but I must admit that I'm impressed by the recent spat of adventure reviews at Gamespot. Their reviews of Road to India, Dragonriders: Chronicles of Pern and Jack Orlando are actually well-written and complimentary to the genre. Sure the scores are not very high, but the reviews explore the reasons behind the score instead of dismissing the entire genre in one fell swoop. Who knows, if this trend continues, then there may no longer be a need for sites like Just Adventure.

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME WOULD SMELL AS SWEET:

As all adventure fans are aware, Dreamcatcher is infamous for changing the European titles of games for their North American releases. Lately though, many of their products have retained their original titles. Fearing that the creative minds at Dreamcatcher may be in a slump, we herewith offer the following name changes for some newly released and upcoming Dreamcatcher games:

Schizm - Breaking Up is Hard to Do
From Dusk to Dawn - Sunrise, Sunset
Zorro - Z Marks the Spot
Beyond Atlantis 2 - Beyond, Beyond Atlantis
Jekyll & Hyde - Mary Reilly the Game
Woody Woodpecker - Sex & Splinters: A Guide to Artificial Appendages

SIGN ME UP!

I'm not a big believer in Internet petitions, but when private investigator Frank De Pasquale sent me the following, how could I resist the challenge:

Let's be frank, the purpose of this mail is to solicit JA's help in our campaign to help the adventure game genre. Our first target right now is to get the Tex Murphy series back on the track. To do so we have to convince the biggest software corporation in the world, David against Goliath, a bunch of fans against Microsoft Corporation. We were just given an objective, 15 000 names on a petition . Obviously that number has been thrown up to get rid of us but we decided to jump at the opportunity and attempt to re-build a coalition that once was powerful enough to support adventure games. We started to spread the word and got over 250 names in less than a day. The rate is good, but not enough. We can reach only so many people only by message boards. Since Just Adventure has become rather strong and popular over time, we are now asking you to help support this cause. We all need this publicity, to show that there still is a market for adventure games. Help us reach the 15,000 names...so far we have over 2,000 signatures.

Well, I'm always up for a challenge and if you too would like to convince Microsoft that we need Tex back, then please pop on over and add your name to the petition.

JOIN JA - SEE THE WORLD

A group of religious fanatics recently invaded the offices of JA and kidnapped and brainwashed a few of our staff members so we are currently seeking a few new reviewers. If you are a dedicated console gamer and love action/adventures then please drop us a line at randy@justadventure.com. As for those of you who love to write walkthroughs - isn't it time you quit doing it for free for those large sites that are making money off your time and sweat? That is why we have decided to pay for walkthroughs for newer games. Now we're not paying a king's ransom mind you, but anything is better than nothing. If you would like a list of walkthroughs we are seeking, then just drop me a line at that there above email address.

Red Herrings

For the lucky 100 who won copies of Road to India: Microids has assured me that the prizes are on the way! There have been some delays due to recent disruptions in the mail system.

I've publicly stated this about a dozen times already, but adventure gamers are stubborn and refuse to believe facts. Listen up, the following 3 games are no longer scheduled for distribution in North America: Simon 3D - there is a small possibility it may be released in the UK, but don't hold your breath. Watchmaker - there is an Italian version, but it looks like that will be the only version. Runaway - this game lived up to its name. There is a Spanish version available, but the company that developed the game recently closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy.

PC Gamer recently reviewed Dreamcatcher/Cryo's Arthur's Knights and awarded it a hefty 15%. The reviewer, Rob Smolka, is a great guy but he is also PC Gamer's sports editor. There's nothing else I can say here that I haven't already repeated 1,000 times.

On the other hand, the November issue of PC Gamer has a wonderful adventure column by editor Rob Smith and the impetus for the subject matter was none other than yours truly! It's always nice to see that we are being heard. The newest issue of PR (Public Relations) Week also features an interview with me concerning my thoughts on why the recent terrorist attacks may have changed the face of gaming forever and the influence of adventure games on the industry.

A recent issue of Next Generation profiled the 'Top 25 Most Influential People' in the gaming industry. All 25 were males. Except for a few Asian men, all were Caucasian. For an industry that prides itself on its diversity of games, there sure doesn't seem to be much diversity in the corporate boardrooms.