GameMill Entertainment: The Modern Day THQ in a Fast Track to Bankruptcy?
The dubious legacy of publishing low-quality, licensed cash-grab video games has a storied history in the gaming industry, one that stretches back decades and seems to find new champions in every console generation. It all arguably began most prominently with LJN on the NES—a company notorious for slapping popular licenses onto lackluster titles.
Miraculously, the torch was passed on to THQ, another company that initially thrived on a business model centered around hastily-produced licensed games. However, THQ eventually met its downfall during the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U era when it failed to adapt to changing consumer expectations, leading to its bankruptcy. Now, GameMill Entertainment appears to be the latest to pick up this dubious mantle, operating in the same vein as its predecessors by churning out poorly-received licensed titles. History shows that companies who take up this torch inevitably find themselves crashing down, a cautionary tale that GameMill would do well to heed.
While GameMill Entertainment may not be a household name, its history of publishing poorly received licensed games has drawn the ire of the gaming community. Now it is often compared to the once-maligned THQ, GameMill appears to be treading a precarious path that has led other game publishers to bankruptcy. With a consistent track record of churning out low-quality games, is GameMill destined for the same fate as THQ?
The Game Mill(ing) Machine
The company’s name, GameMill Entertainment, almost serves as a warning to consumers—implying that they're less about crafting high-quality experiences and more about churning out games like a mill. A quick look at their portfolio reveals titles that primarily consist of licensed games such as "Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl," "Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing," "G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout," and "Zombieland: Double Tap – Road Trip." The trend suggests that the company’s primary focus is not on quality, but rather on pushing out as many titles as they can.
When looking at GameMill Entertainment's portfolio, it becomes evident that the publisher has been widely criticized for a few specific titles. One glaring example is "Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing," a game that has been lampooned for its countless bugs and general lack of content. "G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout" is another game that failed to meet critical or commercial expectations, criticized for its dated graphics and repetitive gameplay. In the realm of licensed titles, "Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl" garnered some buzz but ultimately fell short of expectations, criticized for its roster cuts and overall lack of polish. "Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers" also comes to mind, with reviewers panning it for its repetitive levels and simplistic gameplay. Even their attempt at tapping into the nostalgia market with "Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues" faced criticism for its uninspired combat mechanics and lackluster presentation. All in all, these titles highlight GameMill's ongoing struggle to release quality products, pointing to a trend of rushing games to market that might be unsustainable in the long run.
While GameMill Entertainment has garnered a reputation for churning out shovelware, it's not an entirely bleak picture. Among their portfolio, there are a few glimmers of quality that suggest they're capable of delivering a decent gaming experience when they put their mind to it. The best example of this is probably "Cruis'n Blast" for the Nintendo Switch, a game that received a fair amount of praise for its fast-paced racing and entertaining gameplay mechanics. So while the bulk of their output may not inspire confidence, the existence of titles like "Cruis'n Blast" offers a shred of hope that the company has the potential to produce worthwhile content.
The Case of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl
One game that epitomizes GameMill's approach is Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. Fans and critics alike have complained about the game being rushed and missing key features. Even within the game's community, there’s a consensus that the developers were not given adequate time to refine the game. This hasty approach to game development is reminiscent of THQ’s earlier years, where the focus was more on quantity over quality.
"Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl" had the potential to be an exciting alternative in the platform fighter genre, especially for fans of Nickelodeon's iconic characters. However, the game falls short of expectations, feeling noticeably underdeveloped and floaty in its controls. While the roster has some interesting choices, the characters largely feel similar to control, reducing the diversity and strategic depth one might expect from such a game. The voice acting, rather than adding to the experience, quickly becomes grating. In comparison to the polished mechanics and intricate gameplay of "Super Smash Bros.," "Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl" pales and is perhaps best left as a novelty experience rather than a staple in one's gaming library. If you're in the market for a solid "Smash" clone, other titles like "Rivals of Aether" offer a more satisfying gameplay experience.
THQ Predicted This Fall From Grace
There was a time when THQ was criticized for much of the same practices that plague GameMill today. Over the years, THQ realized the importance of quality and attempted to shift their focus. However, by the time this realization dawned on them, it was too late, leading to their eventual bankruptcy. There was a moment where the gaming community had faith in THQ's turnaround, but that moment passed too quickly for the company to survive.
Headed for a Similar Fate?
Like THQ and LJN that have come before, GameMill seems to be ignoring the warning signs. In an era where gamers are more discerning and vocal than ever, continuously producing low-quality titles is a recipe for disaster. It's almost ironic how the company is doing precisely what led to the downfall of publishers that came before them. They are speeding down a path that seems to lead directly to financial ruin, without any signs of steering away.
GameMill Entertainment's persistent emphasis on quantity over quality sends a clear message about its business model, which is eerily similar to the trajectory that led THQ into bankruptcy. If they continue down this path without taking corrective actions, they might just be setting themselves up for an inevitable fall. Unless GameMill can adapt and pivot towards producing quality content, they risk following THQ's tragic tale, becoming yet another story in the long line of failures in gaming history.