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A history of gaming's biggest scandals
- — 30 March, 2010 10:58
We all lap up celebrity scandals , exhilarated by the unfortunate plight of the rich and famous (Ms Bingle, we're looking at you). But watching a scandal unfold in the gaming world is akin to watching puppies being slowly drowned in a barrel of acid. It’s no fun at all.
You get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, knowing that each volatile headline may directly affect the games you play. Think about it. When Lindsay Lohan gets arrested for drug-fuelled hijinks, nobody else is adversely affected. But when Infinity Ward and Activision are battling it out for the rights to Modern Warfare, the consequences could be dire for everyone.
Video games are a great way to escape the banality of everyday life. But while we’re happily immersed in our pixellated world, a whole industry is working behind the scenes like a well-oiled machine; churning out games for our enjoyment. Occasionally, a cog in the wheel gets broken.
We've taken a look at some of the biggest scandals to rock the video game industry; from the infamous DRIV3R-GATE to the plight of Richard Gaywood. These are the events that rocked the gaming world.
E.T. almost kills the video games industry (1983)
This drawing is better than the entirety of E.T: The Video Game
Few would suspect the family-friendly alien E.T. would trigger a calamity that almost killed the gaming industry.
But the game E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, published by Atari, did indeed bring the industry to its knees. It was so abhorrently bad it is often credited with single-handedly instigating the great video game crash of 1983. (The ensuing drought was a bleak time for gamers, until Nintendo finally came to the rescue with the mighty NES.)
To be fair, there were a lot of poor titles released at the time, but E.T. was the straw that broke the camel's back. The games’ copious number of death pits coupled with the dodgy controls made the game nigh on unplayable. Consumer trust in video games had been irreversibly burnt, and the tradition of awful movie licences was born.
There is a rumour Atari dug a huge pit in the middle of the New Mexican desert to bury unsold and returned copies of the game. A year later, Atari closed down (possibly from embarrassment).
To this day, gamers still embark on pilgrimages in a bid to find the mystery landfill, recognising the importance of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial to the history of gaming.
Nintendo gets screwed over by Sony, and then by Square (1994)
Pic needs more mustache
In 1991, Nintendo abruptly dropped out of its partnership with Sony to produce a CD-based video game console. It was a decision that the Big N would regret for an entire decade.
It started out as a match made in heaven: Nintendo, gaming juggernaut, and Sony, electronics extraordinaire, were to make a new console tentatively titled the SNES-CD.
But at the 11th hour, Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi ran through the contract and had a "WTF?" moment, realising that Sony would be the master of all games made on the new console.
The deal was called off. But what was Sony to do with all the research it had done? Lo and behold; the PlayStation was born and Nintendo sobbed into its pillow as the new disc-based machine gobbled up more and more market share.
To rub salt into the wound, long time exclusive Nintendo developer Square (now Square-Enix) jumped ship to the PlayStation and graced it with one of the most critically acclaimed JRPGs of all time: Final Fantasy VII .
Square had originally wanted to make a game for the Nintendo 64, but cited the exorbitant cost and small storage capacity of cartridges as the reasons it jumped ship. There might have been an outcry from Nintendo diehards, but the glamorous cut-scenes Final Fantasy is now famous for wouldn’t have existed if not for the defection.
Nintendo’s belated foray into the disc-based console market with the GameCube ended up being a bit of a damp squib, but all was not lost. The company eventually got its “in your face!” moment when it released the Wii, which has sold more than 67 million units to date. Still, the damage caused to the Nintendo brand cannot be underestimated.