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HIVE EXCLUSIVE: Midway Expands Arcade Tradition to Next-Generation Consoles

5 Sep, 2001 By: John Gaudiosi

Although Midway Entertainment has ceased development of its arcade game business, the company is making the most of its rich library of arcade classics. Having abandoned its traditional arcade to console launch schedule, the company is now reinventing classic arcade universes specifically for next-generation platforms. This fall’s 3D remake of Spy Hunter (Sept. 25) for PlayStation 2 and next fall’s new take on Area 51 and Defender for PS2 are the first of many games. The company will continue to support games across next-generation platforms, building on its brands.

While about half of its game development will focus on classic arcade updates and original content like Arctic Thunder (Sept. 18), Legion: The Legend of Excalibur (Nov.), Fireblade, Mortal Kombat, Freaky Flyers and Dr. Muto (all 2002), the other half of Midway’s lineup features extreme sports, most of which is being developed in its Chicago studio. The company, which will release its latest NFL Blitz 2002 game for all platforms this fall, is expanding into all of the major sports with its Midway Sports label including hockey (NHL Hitz 2002), baseball (MLB Slugfest 2003), soccer (Red Card Soccer) and basketball (Ballers). A new sub-brand, Midway Sports Asylum, debuts next year with the BMX dirt bike game (Gravity Games: Bike: Street. Virt. Dirt) and snowboarding (Insane Terrain), as well as additional sports. Midway’s three-year strategic partnership with the Gravity Games, which airs on NBC this September, will give these games added exposure and marketing.

“We’ve already established ourselves in the extreme sports category with Blitz, now we’re expanding our games a bit to attract both the casual sports gamers and the sports simulation fans,” said Michael Lustenberg, director of sports marketing, Midway. “With our Asylum sub-brand, which will see at least three video games next year, we wanted to make our games both extreme and with attitude. The Gravity Games partnership should help us with this category, as well.”

Midway will be one of the first video game publishers to make use of PlayStation 2’s DVD capabilities. Legion: The Legend of Excalibur, Spy Hunter and NHL Hitz 2002 will all include extra features on the PS2 DVD. In addition to behind-the-scenes featurettes on all three games, Spy Hunter will include a music video and a featurette on the game design sketches, while Legion will include a documentary on the Arthurian legend.

“In our marketing department, we’re starting to push the added value content for the game DVD from the game’s inception,” said Helene Sheeler, v.p., marketing, Midway. “I’m a big fan of movie DVDs and I want to bring elements that will excite our consumers and make use of the extra storage space of the DVD.”

Sheeler expects all of Midway’s DVD games to include extra materials and hopes to raise the bar with future releases. Other companies like THQ and Activision are also expected to include added-value material on some of their fall releases.Sheeler will introduce new franchises with extensive advertising campaigns, including TV ad buys.

“We’ll launch a new franchise with TV support and allow print and online carry the marketing for established franchises,” said Sheeler.

This fall, both NHL Hitz 2002, an extreme hockey game for PS2, Xbox and GameCube, and Spy Hunter will receive TV support. All of the titles will include print and online campaigns with each title getting a dedicated Web site. Spy Hunter will incorporate an online sweepstakes that will give away a new BMW.

Midway is also using in-game branding in both Spy Hunter, with Spy Sunglasses, and Arctic Thunder, with Soap Shoes and Journey’s shoe stores. Customers who try on Soap Shoes will receive a free PS2 game demo of Arctic Thunder.

“We identify companies that our target demographic find cool and work with them to promote the game and the company’s products,” said Sheeler. “We feature the brand in the game and give away the products through our Web sites.”

Midway will also receive marketing help from Coke, Radio Disney and Bellyache national mobile tours. Midway games will be featured on gaming kiosks and game info will be distributed and games will be given away as prizes. The tours last throughout the year, with Coke’s tour running into 2002.

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