It doesn’t get any more official than this.

I worked for Midway in the Texas office from 1995-1999. Even after I left, I kept close relations with many of my friends until my return to the San Diego branch in 2002. From there, I was off and on with the company until I finally parted ways with them in 2005.

Reading all of the news with Midway’s current state saddens me. I won’t mince words in saying that I saw this coming a long time ago. It prompted my initial leaving of the company before the new millennium began, and my intent to “start fresh” with the company years later definitely reminded me that the writing I once saw was still on the wall.

When I joined Midway Home Entertainment (then Williams Entertainment), Mortal Kombat 3 had just released to the arcades. Williams/Midway was no longer letting Acclaim do publishing for their titles, as they were choosing to step into that arena themselves by purchasing Tradewest. I grew up at the arcades, and was more than familiar with titles such as Defender, Joust, Robotron, and especially Mortal Kombat. Shortly after I joined the company, they bought part of Atari’s library, which meant tiles like Gauntlet, Paperboy, and Marble Madness were now part of the Midway family. As a gamer, I was in heaven.

I look back on my time at the Texas office very fondly. It wasn’t always perfect, but the people there were like a second family to me, and I cared about them greatly (still talk to a significant number of them, and occasionally reunite every few years). The San Diego office was another creature altogether. I knew a good number of people by my time in the Texas office, and as much as I tried to be a part of that “family”, it was never truly home. Not like I had wanted it to be.

But Midway was changing. The pinball and arcade divisions were gone, and remakes/updates of their classic franchises never quite had the same spark as what made the original games so special. It was my thought that Midway was losing its identity, coupled with some management that promoted on “the buddy system” from within, and very simply, didn’t understand or even know (or care) about the products that once defined them. Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks was the last title that I worked on, and it was a very competent and enjoyable brawler (even if the voice acting and attempts at “hip” humor were questionable).

My prediction that Midway had lost its way and would have to answer to that has come more true than I ever thought possible. Any hope that remained that one day Midway would pull themselves out its slump and find their place again never materialized. Did they intentionally want to run themselves into the ground at the end? It’s hard to make that call. I wasn’t there. But based on my own observations, it certainly didn’t seem that far-fetched at the end.

The last game I bought from Midway as a consumer was Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe. While many considered the title and the mere concept of the game a parody of the series former glory, I found it to be the most “true” to the series entry since MK3. But it wasn’t enough to save Midway. And there falls a large portion of my childhood/teen/young adult arcade gaming experiences, and an “old friend” that I could do little more than just sit by and watch self-destruct.

It seems the final sales of the Midway properties end July 1. Warner Bros. Interactive has intent to buy Mortal Kombat, which I hope they reboot the franchise, and can repair the mistakes the series has made. The rest of the classic titles are going to be broken up and sold off to the highest bidders. Think about it: If you have enough cash on hand, you could own the publishing rights to Spy Hunter. Actually, you could own the entirety of the game lock, stock and barrel.

The most ideal situation is that some company or entity out there recognizes the forgotten value of what defined arcade gaming from the 1980’s to the early 2000’s, purchases the classic library, and distributes this period of gaming history with more respect. I would like to see the new Atari would purchase back all of their old namesake’s titles just to reunite everything, but I’m sure that’s more of a “rose-colored glasses” scenario on my part.

The bottom line is that there are games in Midway’s back catalog that need and deserve to survive. Midway in its current and final form just could not exist the way it has, and it is simply too late to “reboot” the company. I just hope that when the dust settles and memory starts to dull, Midway is remembered more for its earliest contributions to the gaming industry than the sad form it ultimately devolved into.

*raises glass*

Rest in peace, old friend….

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed under: arcade gamingmidwaymortal kombat