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When Gamecock waved it’s mighty girth around for the first time earlier this year, we had to shake our heads and laugh. Not because the idea of a publisher working to let developers have their own way was silly, but because they called themselves Gamecock. Go ahead, you can giggle. Our first look at the upcoming Insecticide was met with wide-eyed wonderment. Hey, did Tim Burton and Tim Schaffer get drunk before cooking up this weird idea for an action/adventure game?
What co-founder Mike Wilson and his merry band decided to do with Gamecock was acknowledge that in the end this is a business about having fun. If the “suits” aren’t laughing, then where does that leave poor Mikey Codemaster when a game has to ship in 6 weeks, but there’s a game-breaking bug? I’ll tell you. He’s having a nervous breakdown while we in the gaming press pontificate on why running in a wide open adventure game causes the main character’s limbs to detach from the body. After all, there are deadlines to meet and dollars to make.
That’s where Gamecock stepped in, and told developers like Crackpot Entertainment, to throw the craziest shit possible and see what sticks. When it’s ready, that is when the game will ship. And if Gamecock’s premiere title – Dementium for the DS – is any indication, the company may have something going on besides irreverent commentary on the games industry. From Hail to the Chimp throwing support behind Stephen Colbert’s presidential run and Ninjas vs Pirates Dodgeball finally set to answer the most timeless of quandaries, Gamecock may be doing something that no other publisher has the balls to do. Letting the inmates take control of the prison.
Then again, it’s not like Gamecock is the first to offer awkward and artsy titles to the gaming audience. The gaming press, and the smarter of those in the gaming crowd, fawned all over Psychonauts. The throngs never came, and now we can only hope Tim Schaffer’s brilliant platformer can get the respect it deserves through Xbox Originals. And let’s not forget the tragic closing of Clover Studio by Capcom after they had produced Okami, one of the most vibrantly rich and new experiences of 2006.
While we laugh at the juvenile name of the company, and notice the crazy weirdness coming from the first batch of games, it has to be noted that odd art design cannot succeed as a business model. Luckily for the employees of Gamecock, the boys in charge actually know what they’re doing. Interviews with them may be full of quips, but underlying it all is a deep understanding of the industry. The difference is they don’t like what they see. It’s not about quirky titles starring 4 legged bugs, but letting a developer run with a great concept that just so happens to end up with hot bug investigators. It could have just as easily ended with some sort of dude in red overalls.
This isn’t about funny games, although those can be enjoyable. It’s about games that are made as pure as possible in an industry that is unfortunately trying to become as lifeless as mainstream movies. The odd gem pops up now and then, but more often than not the great titles come and go without so much as a whimper on the sales chart. Marketing budgets are loaded onto proven properties, while the small time boys sit on the side sweating that they’ll even be remembered two weeks from now. Downloadable content has helped ease the problem, and Gamecock is a publisher who is taking the concept of good games for gamers into the retail realm.
The real question is whether anyone will care about Insecticide. The title has players taking on the role of Detective Chrys Liszt in the city of Troi on a bug hunt. The game mixes classic action shooting with point and click adventure in an all-new way. Of course, the developer does have talent from classics like Full Throttle and Day of the Tentacle working on Insecticide. Those classic adventure games were a highlight of any PC gamer's early days, and it’s about damn time someone found a way to properly update the genre for a modern audience.
Perhaps Gamecock can finally offer the Wideload Games and Crackpot Entertainment’s of the world a fair shake at a marketing plan. Rather than focusing on the money maker, the publisher plans to limit itself only to the games it can directly assist. That may mean fewer titles in a given year, but it also means a better shot for all of them to become bona fide hits. Time will tell if Gamecock is capable of pulling off a resurgence of the “garage band” style of game development. Honestly, the success of Gamecock – or a similar publisher – can’t come soon enough. I’m tired of trudging through the mire of the current gaming landscape, which is littered with more high profile franchises than quality titles.
For something completely different, please feel free to enjoy some videos and screenshots from upcoming Gamecock games below. Or not, if you want to be a jerk about it. You’re only hurting yourself.