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You Will Be Missed (Part 3) October 21, 2011

Posted by Maniac in Editorials, You Will Be Missed.
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I’ve been following gaming news for over ten years and I’ve been involved in the industry for over eight years as a staff writer on various sites.  I understand that not all companies last forever, but there comes a time when you are so caught up in the activities of an organization that when it shuts down, a part of you goes with it.  It’s happened to me more times than I can remember, but here’s a list of companies from my experiences that are no longer with us.  They’ve either been shut down, gone bankrupt, or were taken over so badly that they are no longer the same company I loved.  It is a sad story to see such great potential end abruptly, but like life we have to move on, but we will never forget.

Rare:  This one was requested by one of my commenters on an earlier You Will be Missed.  Rare was one of the best Nintendo exclusive developers in the US for the SNES and N64 generations producing hits that were not only critically acclaimed but fan favorites of their respective platforms.  They produced such hits as Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Killer Instinct, Perfect Dark, and of course GoldenEye 64, considered by many the greatest N64 game of all time.

Then Microsoft bought them for $100 million ($40 million more than they paid for Bungie) and made them an Xbox exclusive developer.  They started off by releasing updated games for the Xbox 1 platform like Conker: Live and Reloaded, but when the Xbox 360 came out of the gate they launched two major exclusives, Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo, one of which was a critical disappointment and the other was not a major seller.  After that, Rare released Viva Pinata, which was a very good seller.  The problem was, Viva Pinata was very different from the action games that Rare’s fans wanted them to continue making.  Since then, Rare has been working on very different kinds of games for the 360 platform.  While games like Perfect Dark and Banjo Kazooie have been ported to Xbox Live Marketplace, Rare’s recent resume has been working on games like Kinect Sports.  While the company is still very much alive and kicking, it has been clear many fans would like for them to go back and continue releasing the unique action games that made them successful.

Lechmere:  This one may be a bit of an obscure one, as with the research I’ve done told me that this place spread only as far as the Northeastern US.  Lechmere was an electronics store on par with what we would consider a Best Buy or PC Richards nowadays, but only it did it years before Best Buy even came to my state.  The difference between this store and more recent electronics stores is that this place knew what it was selling but still operated in a mass market mindset.  The stores were huge, twice as big as what a Circuit City was, and there was nothing electronic they wouldn’t sell.  You could even stock a brand new kitchen with appliances, or demo a video game over at the Nintendo 64 alcove.  My first exposure to most of the major devices in the 90s was in Lechemere, including the Virtual Boy, Playstation, Nintendo 64, CD-i and 3DO.  This is where I would go to see those early PC FMV games demoed as well.  I remember being wowed off my rocker to see movies being released on CD-ROM there for the first time (boy those never took off!)

So if it did everything right, why is it the company’s been dead since back when I was in middle school?  Well, you can blame big business for that.  The story I was told at the time was there was a major conglomerate (I don’t know which one, and they’re bankrupt now so who cares?) who wanted the Maytag name but couldn’t get it.  Because Lechmere had it, they chose to buy the company to acquire Maytag in the process.  When the conglomerate filed for bankrupcy, they took Lechmere with them, and even though the stores had plenty of customers and sales, they were shut down.  My own research did confirm part of this story, but I cannot verify the reason why they were purchased was because of Maytag, so for all I know that story could be bullshit.  Regardless, the company shut down in 1997 and has not been seen since.

In my opinion, no electronics store since has been organized as well as Lechmere did.  Their mindset was big and it worked well for them.  Prices were affordable for items, like music or movies, they actually had a large amount of cash registers open at any given time (you know, because there were people buying things).  This was a lot different then when I had to start dealing with stores like Circuit City, which never had registers open under any circumstances.  They would instead force customers to go to Customer Service to buy their items, and have to wait forever behind people returning a printer they never should have bought in the first place.  I miss you Lechmere, come back, we need you in this world!

FASA Studios:  Formed by Jordan Weisman in the 80s, this company was responsible for the Mechwarrior, Shadowrun, and Crimson Skies games, all of which are considered some of the best games ever published by Microsoft.  The company was bought by Microsoft and for a while they were given a lot of liberty with what they could do.  In 2006, after completing Shadowrun, Microsoft had no further projects for them (even though they wanted to make another Crimson Skies game) and chose to shut the company down.

You can find a FANTASTIC video about the life and death of this company on YouTube, done by someone who calls himself Research Indicates.  It was done very similar to documentaries directed by Ken Burns and provided a lot of great information and factoids.

A lot of the people who were a part of the Crimson Skies team became a part of Bungie Studios and contributed to the space dogfight segment of Halo Reach.  Weisman has since formed a new studio and recently released Crimson Steam Pirates for the iPad (with the backing of the now independant Bungie).

I’d also like to make a small update to some of the earlier You Will be Missed articles I have written in the past.

The Little Miss Gamer blog from PBC-Productions has gotten some life back into it.  Lindsey Briggs has posted a tidbit or two on it as of recently after over a year of lapse.  Unfortunately, PBC has not made any Little Miss Gamer or Captain S videos in quite a while, but I hope to hear more from it!

Barry Smith’s InkTank site is back online, and some of the archives of the older Angst Tech are back up as well.  Barry even put up a new strip shortly after bringing the site back up.  Unfortunately that is all that was added to the site in several months, as the majority of the Angst Tech archive has not been restored, and no further new strips have been posted.

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