You’ve all probably heard the news that Hironobu Sakaguchi, famed Final Fantasy Director, has left Square Enix and is now the head of his own development company, MistWalker. You’ve also probably heard about the new Xbox 360, Microsoft’s next generation console, and that Mistwalker plans to release their first RPG on that console. Some of you might have dwelled on this, and some not; I am one of the former. You see, when I heard how Microsoft was touting its new deal with MistWalker, I immediately began to think of how video games have become more and more like their distant cousins, movies. In my opinion, the use of Mistwalker's name for publicity is a direct parallel to the use of Hollywood directors' and producers' to sell films.
MistWalker has yet to release a single game, on any console. Yet it has already garnered a measure of respect and public acclaim. Why? Simply because it just happens to be headed by a man who has directed a popular series of games. This doesn’t seem incredulous, I’m sure. But hold on; since when was a video game made by a single man? With every movie there seems to be a "Directed by Famous Name" or "Produced by Famous Name" on every poster and DVD case. Is this the path that video games are heading down? And, is this a bad or a good thing?
Jason Rubin, co-founder of developer Naughty Dog (Crash Bandicoot) reasons that if we were to make "Spielbergs out of Developers, we’d make Raiders of the Lost Arks out of our games" and, in some respect, I can see his reasoning. Perhaps this will convince people to try some quality games they might have otherwise ignored, if not for seeing a producer or developer name they recognized. I have brought plenty of games I wasn't entirely excited about, taking a risk because maybe it was made by a developer I personally liked. However, I have never matched up games with one specific name. As much as I enjoyed a game like Final Fantasy X, I think history has shown us that riding on a single name is illogical at best, and often unwise.
I have two examples: First let's take a look at John Romero. Most of you may know him as the co-creator of Doom and Wolfenstien 3D. Those were some great games, and their names have been all but permanently inscribed in the minds of American video hamers. Many, if not most, of those same minds also remember Daikatana, and bitterly. After co-creating Doom, Romero was elevated to almost rock star fame. Daikatana was a follow-up project that, in my opinion, pretty much rode on the name of the famous Romero. It flopped, spectacularly, and hardly anyone probably remembers Daikatana anymore. Romero didn't have the rest of the Doom development team to back him up, and his name alone couldn't produce a great game.
Second, we have Hideo Kojima. We all know him as the creator of the Metal Gear series and you may also know him as the creator of a small series called Boktai. Now, besides the whole "you have to play outside in the sun" gimmick, I think the way the media was selling Boktai was through Kojima's name. I mean, here is a guy who has created a beloved series, a quality one at that, yet the game Boktai pretty much flopped. Kojima, talented as he is, is still just one man, and a single name is rarely enough to sell a game.
We live in a world where we can name quite a few movies that probably wouldn't have done that well in the box office if it weren't for some high profile names backing it. Quite frankly, these movies were generally of bad quality but somehow got the spotlight anyways. The thing about video games is, I'm risking 50 dollars on everything I purchase and I want to know more than just the name of the director. If this continues, I can see video games following down the path of its silver screen counterparts, and that worries me.