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FATALITY!
February 14, 2009 6:54 PM   Subscribe

Chicago-based video game developer Midway Games has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

One of the original name brands in video games, Midway was for many years one of the most recognizable names in gaming, developing or licensing hits like Tron, Ms. Pac-Man, Rampage, and Spy Hunter during the 70's and 80's. Midway was arguably best known for the Mortal Kombat series of games, publishing Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe a mere three months ago. However, the company posted annual losses since 2000 and recently saw Sumner Redstone, it's controlling shareholder, dump his entire holdings in MWY for $100,000. The company now has until February 19 to repay $150 million to creditors.
posted by 40 Watt (43 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's all those damn MAME cabinets that did it!
posted by sourwookie at 6:56 PM on February 14, 2009


Here I was on the front page, feeling sorry for my pal who'd worked at Midway since they made pinball cabinets and had only moved on in the last couple years, thinking about his friends and so on... and then I hit the more inside and promptly died laughing at the headline.

You're a bad person, 40 Watt.

(Plus, it freakin' hurts to laugh.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 7:01 PM on February 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let's not forget... HHHYDRO THUNDER!

Good game. Midway has been in bad shape for a while, as you mentioned. They've been an also-ran publisher for a long time.
posted by selfnoise at 7:20 PM on February 14, 2009


The present Midway's corporate history his rather convoluted. The corporate shell known as Bally/Midway was taken over by Williams (WMS) in 1988, in 1991 WMS bought out the Leland Corporation (formerly Cinematronics) and in 1996 Williams added the legendary Atari Games (which was the main part of Time-Warner Interactive) to its holdings. In 1998 WMS spun Midway off into an independent entity, which proceeded to acquire several game development studios in its attempt to diversify out of pinball and arcade games.

So what is going Chapter 11 now is essentially the whole domestic video game industry ca 1980.

I guess Incredible Technologies, the Golden Tee folks, are going the be the last peeps standing.

Just shoot me.
posted by troy at 7:24 PM on February 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:26 PM on February 14, 2009


midway sucks. i hope more like them die out and make room for some of the decent studios out there.
posted by tumult at 7:28 PM on February 14, 2009


Full disclosure- I worked at Midway from 2000-2006. Maybe if I hadn't spent so much time on MeFi instead of working they might be in better shape.

Sorry, fairytale... It was the first thing that came to mind.
posted by 40 Watt at 7:32 PM on February 14, 2009


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posted by TwelveTwo at 7:38 PM on February 14, 2009


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posted by cjorgensen at 7:40 PM on February 14, 2009


C . . . . . . . • . M
posted by ardgedee at 7:49 PM on February 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


If your eyes are good, you can pick out the arcade sales trend from this graph, courtesy of the UCLA Daily Bruin.

While not quite apples to apples since the on-campus arcade shifted locations in this period, the scale of sales collapse is evident nevertheless.

I was the student accountant/management assistant for the arcade in the late 80s; monster titles like Afterburner and Hard Drivin' did well but pound-for-pound the best earners were the 3 player PJK (punch-jump-kick) games like TMNT and The Simpsons -- these hoovered vast amounts of money from kids on the weekends.

Street Fighter I was rather boring, but Street Fighter II changed the game with its challenger game mechanic -- the peak year 1993 was due to the manager getting the clue to put in *8* Street Fighter II CE (previously it only occurred to us to put in maybe 2 of a hot game).

Unfortunately, IMO SF2 with its perfected forumula, sorta sucked all the oxygen out of the games business and the 25c per ~2 minute design requirement was increasingly hard to meet with escalating technologies and player expectations.

Then the PlayStation and N64 came out, along with 3Dfx and Nvidia powering the FPS (first person shooter) genre games like Quake and Unreal, and players had viable alternatives again.
posted by troy at 7:50 PM on February 14, 2009


Part of the reason for this, as I understand, although I'm not positive of the extent of the damage it caused, is that they were banking heavily on the success of the TNA wrestling game, a game based on a pro wrestling show that hardly anyone watches and which ended up being one of the most widely panned games of 2008. Other than that, their only remotely bankable property was Mortal Kombat, which could charitably be called played out at best.
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:50 PM on February 14, 2009


SF2 was like a nuclear bomb that went off in what had been a pretty dire arcade industry. I don't think any thing remotely comparible to that came out after that until Dance Dance Revolution.

Note -- neither of those are midway games. They had kind of a me-too success with MK, but I can't recall any other must-play midway games.

In fact, I don't even know of an arcade that's within 20 miles of my house and i live in a major metro area. Do most malls still have arcades now?
posted by empath at 7:56 PM on February 14, 2009


I guess Cruisin' Wii wasn't the cash cow they anticipated.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:08 PM on February 14, 2009


Someone should open a franchise made up of all the old and dead business models. Like some sort of hybrid Opium Den/Nickelodeon/Soda Shop/Video Arcade/Oxygen Bar.
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:10 PM on February 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


The company now has until February 19 to repay $150 million to creditors.

You mean, to repay $150 million to creditor.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:12 PM on February 14, 2009


In 1998 WMS spun Midway off into an independent entity, which proceeded to acquire several game development studios in its attempt to diversify out of pinball and arcade games.


Hmmm....

Wikipedia backs you up, but Midway ended their pinball line shortly after 1998, and people have said that it was halted specifically to look better to WMS stockholders.

Is there a word for suddenly being unsure of knowledge upon which you have long relied?

In any event, I haven't quite forgiven them for closing Atari Games and ending the oldest of all game development houses. (By then, in the last in a long series of indignities, it had been renamed "Midway Games West," parodoxically in order to avoid conflicting with Infogrammes' attempts to identify themselves with the name Atari.)

The only Midway titles I have been interested in since the Atari studio closed has been the Midway Arcade Treasures line, released specifically to cash in on the glory days. After "Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows," I have to wonder if any product manager working for the company even understands what makes a game good anymore.

Note that this is not (yet?) the end of the company, and in fact the word is that one of their most recent releases, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, is doing pretty well. When the company finally does close up shop, it'll mean limbo or property sell-off for nearly everything Atari Games made in what I call their "silver" period, from Marble Madness through to the start of the 3D era, and that could be a very bad thing.

Dammit, if only they'd continued trying to cash in long enough to finally allow that location test of Marble Madness 2 to get an official emulation release....
posted by JHarris at 8:15 PM on February 14, 2009


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posted by wastelands at 8:25 PM on February 14, 2009


Midway your life force is running out
posted by Flashman at 8:38 PM on February 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been disappointed with them for never following up with NBA Jam on any of the modern systems. I guess licensing was a big sticking point, but it was the most fun of the basketball games at the time, at least for me, who is not really very good at video games to begin with.
posted by feloniousmonk at 8:41 PM on February 14, 2009


Wikipedia backs you up

I was going to Wikipedia for that so I could be entirely wrong on the chronology, but Wikipedia's WMS entry has this:

"By 1996, WMS had transferred all of the copyrights and trademarks in its video game library to Midway Games, including Defender, Stargate, Robotron: 2084, Joust, and Smash TV, as it took Midway public and finally spun it off in 1998."

so perhaps WMS killed off the Midway pinball line in preparation for the IPO.
posted by troy at 8:51 PM on February 14, 2009


"their only remotely bankable property was Mortal Kombat, which could charitably be called played out at best."

You'd think so. But I still can't get that damned song out of my head. 'MORTAL-KOMBAT! deet deet deet dee duh nuh deet deet deet dee duh nuh - MORTAL-KOMBAT!'
posted by Smedleyman at 8:52 PM on February 14, 2009


In the 1980's, my family bought a used Midway pinball machine and put it in the basement. Many, many fond memories of wasted hours.

Huh. I feel old now.
posted by kyrademon at 9:07 PM on February 14, 2009


Anybody know what's happening at Surreal Software, a division of Midway in Seattle? Are they still working on This Is Vegas?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:14 PM on February 14, 2009


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posted by Netzapper at 9:25 PM on February 14, 2009


Chicago-based video game developer Midway Games has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.... The company now has until February 19 to repay $150 million to creditors.

Actually, it's the other way around. Because the company had a loan maturity deadline of February 19, it needed to file for Chapter 11 in order to gain the protection of an automatic stay. The company is now protected from claims of creditors, who must instead vote up or down the company's reorganization plan. If the plan is confirmed by the court, the creditors must accept the terms of the plan.

The bankruptcy filing, in other words, returned control of their fate to the company, to a large degree, at least for the next 120 days (by which their plan must be filed). They may be able to cram down the debt (reduce it to the value of the company's assets) or otherwise come to new terms with any existing or new creditor.
posted by dhartung at 9:52 PM on February 14, 2009


Midway means only second-tier pinball to me. I didn't even know there had been a Bally-Midway merger. So who if anyone makes pinball games these days?
posted by mwhybark at 10:18 PM on February 14, 2009


Midway Needed Food.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:35 AM on February 15, 2009


Well that sucks.

The only good thing to come of this is maybe the line to get into Hot Doug's will be a little shorter....
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 2:08 AM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


The bankruptcy filing, in other words, returned control of their fate to the company, to a large degree, at least for the next 120 days (by which their plan must be filed). They may be able to cram down the debt (reduce it to the value of the company's assets) or otherwise come to new terms with any existing or new creditor.

Midway has a long history of coaxing people into inserting more coin.

Play again?
posted by mazola at 7:57 AM on February 15, 2009


If Midway can't defend us from this economic melt down, who will?
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:15 AM on February 15, 2009


Are they still working on 'This Is Vegas?'

Yes
posted by P.o.B. at 8:18 AM on February 15, 2009


You mea this one Smed:

'MORTAL-KOMBAT! deet deet deet dee duh nuh deet deet deet dee duh nuh - MORTAL-KOMBAT!
posted by P.o.B. at 8:21 AM on February 15, 2009


I would have thought that the billions of quarters I have pumped into their machines dating right back to the Defender era (tabletop machines were the best!) ought to have been enough to keep that place running for a hundred years.
posted by runningdogofcapitalism at 8:21 AM on February 15, 2009


So who if anyone makes pinball games these days?

Stern. Yep, only one left.
posted by ALongDecember at 8:21 AM on February 15, 2009


Sumner Redstone, it's controlling shareholder
that explains everything.
posted by krautland at 8:52 AM on February 15, 2009


I have no idea how this is possible given how many quarters I pumped into NBA Jam. FRANKENCOW FOR THREEEEEEEEEEEEE!
posted by fusinski at 9:18 AM on February 15, 2009


My next door neighbour (for reals) is the CEO of the company that bought all the IP from Acclaim; wonder if he'll pick up Midway's IP if they go under.
posted by lowlife at 10:18 AM on February 15, 2009


Damn, just think in fifty years people will think about the Who's Pinball Wizard the same way we think about Put Another Nickel In, In the Nickelodeon, which is to say, not very much at all.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:53 PM on February 15, 2009


Humph. Between 1991 and 1992, I played the cats out of "The Addams Family" and "The Twilight Zone" at Sir Jackson's Pizzeria in "She's the hottest baked potato in Denton... Yeah Denton" Denton, Texas. When I find either of those pinball machines to this day I still endlessly jam in quarters and glare and curse at that "damn magnet."

Seems to me they didn't know what to do with pinball machines and arcade cabinet games. Contemporary hardware vendors do know what to do, which is to charge a subscription for service tied to the hardware. I swear with the number of quarters I gave to Sir Jackson's pinball machines I could have floated Midway financially for a few months at least.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 1:55 PM on February 15, 2009


Acclaim is transitory, but big-head mode is forever.
posted by box at 1:59 PM on February 15, 2009


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posted by Flunkie at 3:28 PM on February 15, 2009


Oh no - if these are the folks who make Medieval Madness, best pinball table I ever played, I'm mortgaging the house, selling the books, borrowing my limit, and sending those beautiful bastards a check.

There has to be a twist,
W.
posted by waxbanks at 6:34 AM on February 16, 2009


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