It can be difficult to measure interest in a video game in meaningful terms, but let's try anyway. Let's say this Twinkie represents the normal amount of interest in Ghostbusters: The Video Game in the North American area. Based on this morning's reading, it would be a Twinkie thirty-five feet long, weighing approximately six hundred pounds. That's a big Twinkee, and it can only mean one thing: today is the day that Ghostbusters finally releases. Now, I've been going on and on and on about this game ever since it was just a rumored little project from a dubious developer that didn't actually have the Ghostbusters license, so it seems only appropriate today to take a look back at all of my Ghostbusters ramblings.
When I began crowing for a modern Ghostbusters video game in April 2006, I never thought it would actually happen. The fate of movie tie-in games is all too familiar (despite the occasional stand-out effort). It was January 2007 when the infamous Zootfly-created pitch videos hit the Internet and set off a firestorm of interest in a possible Ghostbusters video game.
While the company didn't have a chance at landing the rights to the property, all of that Internet commotion must have captured someone's attention, because one month later franchise co-creator and the man behind Ray Stantz himself, Dan Aykroyd, announced that he'd locked up the Ghostbusters video game rights and was planning a new project. Indeed, by this point, Terminal Reality was already one year into development on it. Everything went silent until November 2007 when what we know today as Ghostbusters: The Video Game was officially revealed along with the news that Aykroyd and Harold Ramis were working on the story. Vivendi Sierra was set to publish.
Little details about the project began to slip out in the weeks that followed. The inclusion of film villains Gozer the Gozarian and Vigo the Carpathian was announced in December of that year, although their exact roles remained a mystery for the moment. With all of the creative talent working on the project, it became evident that Ghostbusters needed to be good in order to show that it is possible to create a well-crafted, enjoyable game based on a popular film. Thankfully, everything seemed to be moving smoothly on the development side, while the audience was certainly eager.
The other shoe dropped in July 2008 when Vivendi Sierra was gobbled up by Activision/Blizzard who then, in turn, passed on the rights to publish the game. Too much was riding on the game's success at this point for it to completely disappear into cancellation limbo, so it was only a matter of time and money until another published picked up the project. The game continued development during its time as an "orphaned" property, but fans of the series began to worry when early August led to the news that the game was going to be delayed until the far-off future date of June 2009 in order to sync with the original film's twenty-fifth anniversary. Further spooking the gaming community was the revelation that GameStop — a retailer that never met a pre-order option it didn't like — began canceling pre-orders for the game later that month. All of this behind-the-scenes musical chairs led to some awkward marketing efforts, such as inaccurate advertising teasing the game nearly one year ahead of its new release date.
With all of this uncertainty stirring up concerns, somebody close to the game had to come forward and assure the world that it was still on the way. That somebody ended up being Dan Aykroyd, once again teasing that the game was in the works and casually announcing in October that Atari had picked up the rights. Some may have questioned hearing gaming news from a typically non-gaming source, but plenty of people out there were ready to believe him. Less than one month later, new screenshots of the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 versions of the game reached the Internet, calming worries and setting anticipation back on track. Bringing an exciting year to a close in December, a new trailer of the game in action gave us our first looks at the digital versions of beloved characters Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddemore.
As 2009 began, more information about the franchise's anniversary began to solidify. A Blu-ray release of the original Ghostbusters film was announced in early January, while story points involving Gozer and Ivo Shandor were revealed in a set of new screenshots of the game's museum level. February brought a new trailer that tipped the reveal of Brian Doyle-Murray's role as the mayor of New York City. Then came word that Dan Aykroyd liked the early build of the game so much that he couldn't stop playing it, and who could blame him? The new proton packs and other ghostbusting gear can really draw a person into the experience.
While most all of the media exposure surrounding the game was based around the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 versions, Atari finally saw fit to tease the cartoonified Nintendo Wii version of the game in late February. While it seemed that the original magic of the movies would remain intact, the original cast would not, as March brought word that Sigourney Weaver had passed on reprising the role of Dana Barrett in the game, leaving the door open for Alyssa Milano to step in as the new love interest for Venkman, Dr. Ilyssa Selwyn (the similar names of Alyssa and Ilyssa led Bill Murray to quip "You've got some real deep talent at the keyboard, huh?"). The month ended with new details regarding the game's little-seen multiplayer mode (pink slime and all) and teases for how Ecto-1 and Vigo the Carpathian fit into the game's narrative. Meanwhile, over at the Kombo Breaker podcast, we began to pry the game's senior artist, Glenn Gamble, for all kinds of answers to our many questions about the game.
With only two months until release, the developers began to talk about the origin of the project and the creation of the greenlight build that appeased those who control the Ghostbusters franchise as well as release new videos to increase interest and hype. April also saw the first information on pre-order bonuses and special edition packages with Amazon.com's Slimer Edition (with release-date shipping, although the contents of the Slimer Edition would change before release) and special in-game additions such as the jumpsuits from Ghostbusters II and a golden proton pack. As if that weren't enough to drive interest, Atari chose the end of the month to premiere the game's opening cinematic, sparking a flurry of excitement and even a little interest in the previous Ghostbusters games.
With the clocking ticking down in May, the good news / bad news cycle swung back towards pessimism with the news that Atari had passed the publishing rights to the game to Sony Computer Entertainment in Europe, thereby banishing the Xbox 360, Wii and Nintendo DS versions of the game into uncertainty to be released "later". With E3 quickly approaching, it also came as a shock to hear that Atari had chosen not to attend the show, putting an appearance of Ghostbusters: The Video Game into unknown territory. That news was followed by the announcement that Atari was getting out of the business of releasing games on discs in Europe altogether, turning to online distribution after finishing with Ghostbusters. One bit of good news did surface that month, however: the announcement of Vigo the Carpathian's exact role in the storyline, albeit as a minor cameo.
June brought the project into the home stretch, and although Atari did not attend E3 to promote the game, the company did send the aforementioned Glenn Gamble to Los Angeles to promote the PS3 version of the game in Sony's own booth. Flanked by prop proton packs and with the actual Ecto-1 from the films parked outside, the demo kiosks drew interested crowds and curious attention. With Ghostbusters: The Video Game now in stores in North America after three years of development, it's finally time to pick it up and step back into the world of paranormal investigations and eliminations (franchises available soon!) at long last. Play it now, subcreature.