Opinion: Ode to Midway

While browsing KOTAKU today I came across an article about the liquidation of Midway Games, the article outlines the rulings of the payouts for the creditors owed. The article was bleak and to the point, kind of feeling like a separation of belongings during a divorce… The first thought that came to mind was “how did it come to this?” Midway was one of the founding companies of the video games industry and although the average gamer knows the name Midway, most people will not be as sad to see them fall as us here at DLC.So as the company breathes its last breath and disbands, lost to the ages, we remember them with a small history lesson about why they may be gone, but will never be forgotten.

The past

Midway Manufacturing started out in 1958 in America as a manufacturer of amusement games with mechanical style works, like Puck Bowling and Western Shootout, before moving into the world of video games (both development and publishing) in 1973. The company worked closely in the early 70s with Japanese game designer Taito and would regularly licence each others titles in respective countries, but the company’s first big break came in 1978 when they licensed and distributed a small game in an arcade terminal know as ‘Space Invaders’. This title, combined with their 1980s classic (just now at its 30th anniversary) ‘Pacman’ shot Midway from small-time company to one of the leading producers of arcade games in the US for most of the 1980s. It would go on create some of this generations most memorable games such as Galaga, Defender, Tapper (Root Beer Tapper), Joust, Tron (also Discs of Tron) and Spyhunter.

The rise

By the 90s Midway was a major player. In 1996, Midway changed its original corporate name, Midway Manufacturing, to Midway Games Inc., due to its entrance into the console market. The original arcade part of the company became Midway Amusement Games and the newly created Console sector was named Midway Home Entertainment. This was where Midway cemented themselves in the hearts and minds of gamers, with console classics like Killer Instinct, Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, Primal Rage, Rampage, Smash TV and WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game.

The fall

From the year 2000 the company was in trouble. In 2003,  it began bleeding cash at an alarming rate, leading to a slow descent towards bankruptcy that would become final in 2009. The final years became hell for Midway, as it fought legal battles and took faltering steps in the wrong direction that would lead to its tragic demise. Its track record became atrocious and most of the current generation of titles will not be fondly remembered, rather glanced at once or twice from the bargain bins where they now reside. To be fair, it did release some decent titles over the last few years, such as Crusin’ USA, Area 51, Stranglehold, Psi-ops: The Mind Gate Conspiracy and some of the later Mortal Kombat variations.

Nothing lasts forever, and Midway continued to struggle valiantly to produce quality games right down to its recent downfall. Like any good eulogy, it is best not to remember its mistakes, but rather its part in shaping gaming to what it is today. Many of you will read over the list of titles mentioned in this post and smile with fond memories, recollecting hours well spent slaving though wave after wave of enemies or round after round of opponents.

From its humble start in shaping arcade gaming, to its many fine console titles, like an aging rockstar it went out the way it lived: taking big risks and trying new things. This is the Midway I choose to remember.

Midway… We at DLC salute you.

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Joshua Philpott

Tech MacGyver
Games writer, podcaster and tech wizard. Obsessed with obscure horror films, crazy gadgets and caffeine. Passionate, argumentative and open minded. Freelance writer and co-founder rawDLC.

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  • Moopidoo

    No flawless victory for Midway. I liked the old MK games.

  • DoGM3At

    brutalities FTW

  • Stubby

    Okay, whilst I do agree that we are closing a page of gaming history, I feel I must speak out as the voice of reason : dude, crusin' USA SUCKED!!!!! We're talking about a racer like Outrun in a time of DAYTONA and Gran Turismo! Hahaha

    Though I do pose a question …. does this mean Mortal Kombat 7 (I think that's it's current name) is now canned, or has someone else picked it up?

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  • DoGM3At

    I'm sorry dude but it has been a long time since i enjoyed a mortal kombat game …