I just added US Games' "Name This Game" to my collection and it has me a bit puzzled.
First off history. Somebody came up with the idea for this game in 1982 and tried to offer it to Parker Bros. who had the video game rights for the 1975 film "Jaws". They lost the license and eventually it was programmed by somebody else and it got picked up by US Games. Without knowing what the game is, that "Jaws" bit is a little strange isn't it? Yeah, so the premise of the game itself is you are a diver who is defending a treasure from a giant octopus and a shark. That's really it. Over and over and over again. I'll be the first to admit, I'm not really sure how different the original idea was from what was created, but if it wasn't that different...how, exactly, is this a "Jaws" game? The main villain is the octopus. The thing is humongous. Takes up damn near the whole screen.
So why the name? Why do we have a game about shooting an octopus and a shark to defend a treasure given the bizarre moniker of "Name This Game"? Well, we don't. It's actually called "Name This Game and Win $10,000".
US Games' could not come up with a suitable title for this thing. Not really sure why, but according to Digital Press is apparently it had something to do with not being able to use the phrase "The Deep". I'm going to guess this was to not get into copyright issues over the name of the 1977 film "The Deep".
If I may side bar for just a second, why not just go get the video game license for that then? Honestly. Why not? They already did that for the "Towering Inferno" and that did...ok I guess? I'm just saying the idea must have been floating around.
Anyway...moving off the sidebar, the marketing department then had this brilliant idea of holding a contest to name this thing. The winner would get, all together now, $10,000 dollars! If anyone is curious, that would be roughly $27,000 today. That is a pretty significant chunk of change for a lesser known video game publisher to be throwing around. Luckily they had all that Quaker Oats money to throw around since they were owned by them. Yeah, that cereal company with the man in the hat...it was a weird time to be in video games is my point. So yeah, all you had to do was send in your form with your address and your title and send it in...as long as it adhered to the content guidelines. YOU BETTER NOT USE THE WORDS 'THE' OR 'DEEP' JOHNNY! All of this can be seen here: http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-2600-vcs-name-this-game_7637.html
The Game With No Name
So we have this great contest attached to a mediocre game, not a bad game mind you, but decent. What could possibly go wrong? Well, how about an industry ending crash. Yeah, probably not the thing you want to have happen when you just released a game with a 10,000 dollar prize attached to it. This game came out in 1982 and the contest was supposed to be held at the end of April in 1983. This was the year (1983) when the entire video game industry was brought to its knees in an event called "The Video Game Crash of 1983" and a TON of companies were shuttered as a result. US Games was one of those. I'm guessing this probably had something to do with the fact that Quaker Oats wasn't all that happy that their video game subsidiary was losing money. Don't know that for sure, but that would be my guess.
At this point I'd like to say that the contest was held, and little Tammy Jenkins from Germfask, MI won the $10,000 with her title "Miss Jenkins Party With the Shark and Octopus" which she used to go to college and made her family very proud. But I can't say that. No. I can't it because before the contest could be held US Games bit the dust and left "Name This Game" without a real name.
So what happened? Well, nothing. Not really anyway. Apparently the game was release in Europe as "Octopus" in 1983 after the release of the US version. Digital Press did hold a contest in 1994 (without the $10,000 prize I would assume) and the winning title was "Going Under" which not only described the game, but US Games as well. Way to rub it in. You can read more here:http://www.digitpress.com/video-game-guide/?mode=GameInfo&gameid=24144
But yeah, that really is all that happened as far as I can tell. Its a story of yet ANOTHER highly ambitious contest (Swordquest anyone?) that couldn't be completed because the video game bubble burst and crushed everybody's hopes and dreams. Well, that was sad, but this isn't over yet.
My Last Question
In my reading about this game, I couldn't seem to find what the final outcome of this contest was going to be for the company itself. In those rules up there it had to be a name that could actually be used as far as copyright goes. To me that says they would have actually named the game with the winning entry. My question is, would US Games have actually paid the expense and taken the time to design new manuals and labels to reflect this name change? I feel like they would have had to. What would the point have been otherwise? Just to sell more copies of a mediocre, generic game with a shark and an octopus? Actually yeah. It was probably that.