Romero Threatens to Make You His Bitch

There we were, casually flipping through our favorite gaming magazine, and suddenly, POW! Like a kick to the jimmies, it was there: a bright red page with giant black letters, screaming "John Romero's About to Make You His Bitch." No screenshots, no game name, just an Eidos logo, an Ion Storm logo, and small text that added: "Suck it Down." It was the first game advertisement for Daikatana, hyping the game for a Christmas '97 release. Gamers everywhere had been challenged by the co-creator of DOOM in a campaign that hyped his name more than the game.

There were two ways it could've gone from there. Had Daikatana come out that holiday season and bowled over gamers as planned, all would've been forgiven. After all, Romero's name had weight; he was the most outspoken member of a team that had created the most incredible PC games of their time. Smack-talk was part of the culture he himself helped to create.

Clearly, this is the hair of a man acquainted with Pro V Vitamins.
But instead, Daikatana came out three years later in 2000 -- two game engines and a staff of about a hundred burned out employees later. By which time the pre-hyping was embarrassing ... and probably led to even harsher than necessary reviews of an admittedly mediocre game. Gamers felt insulted by the ad and lashed out at the final product with a vengeance. Not only was the marketing money wasted, it probably did more damage to the game (and the company, and its founder) than good!

Fargo: I promise this is the last time Ion Storm will appear on our list, but this debacle was just too big to ignore. The real problem is that Daikatana had such an aggressive development schedule -- they wanted a game by Christmas, so they bought lots of advertising space, and then didn't know what to do with it. In the book Masters of Doom, the story is told that Romero was unsure about running the campaign, but was goaded into it by PR maven Mike Wilson. "Don't be a pussy," Mike told him.

Delsyn: I don't know. The story Romero told author David Kushner in that book seems like self-serving historical revisionism to me. Romero was given a huge reality check when both Daikatana and Ion Storm crashed and burned, but at the time, his ego was so large it had its own gravitational field. Romero likes to paint himself as a victim of relentless pressure, fan expectations, and marketing hype, but none of it would have happened had he not begun believing his own press releases. As far as I'm concerned, John Romero is living proof of the old adage, "Be nice to the people you meet on the way up, because you'll be meeting the same people on the way down.

Fragmaster: And today John Romero is fairly down there, as his new company Monkeystone is currently toiling away on thankless projects like a port of Red Faction to Nokia N-Gage, a system that in my personal opinion is the next big colossal failure. That's what you get for making a bug and frog murdering simulator featuring a guy named "Superfly Johnson," I guess.

John Romero is a talented guy who has contributed to and designed some really cool games, but Daikatana is such a colossal Mount Everest of failure that it tends to overshadow just about everything else.

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