I'll miss you, Ryan.

I, like everyone else, am incredibly shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of Ryan Davis.

Even though he was only 5 years older than me, I feel like I grew up watching him. I've spent hundreds of hours with Ryan and the GB family, via video, podcasts, Twitter, what have you.

The last time I saw Ryan in person was at a PAX East, and Ryan had his nose buried in a 3DS with a huge smile on his face.

Everything about Ryan was oversized, his laugh, his wit, and his zest for life.

Ryan will be missed by everyone who had the pleasure to know him, whether personally, or via Giant Bomb and Gamespot. Rest in peace, Ryan.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of E3 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of E3 2013

E3 2013 is over, and Chris takes a look at what went down in the craziest week in videogames! There was plenty of shenanigans to go around this year, and we're taking a look at the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Previously posted on www.knowngriefers.com

The Good:

Sony’s Throwdown of a Press Conference

Nobody expected Sony to throw down the gauntlet like they did. Although they certainly had the upper hand, due to their press conference happening hours after Microsoft’s, the jabs they threw at their biggest competitor came outta nowhere. Sony seemingly did the opposite of every single move Microsoft made. Indie games were given ample stage time, on-stage guests were kept to a minimum, and several game announcements brought the usually tepid press conference audience to their feet several times.

The conclusion of the Sony conference was like the climax to a Michael Bay film. Knockout blows came one after another, and Jack Tretton was visibly giggling like a schoolboy every time the crowd got hyped up. In an almost unheard of move, both manufacturers revealed their next-gen price points, with the PS4 coming in a cool $100 cheaper than the XBox One. Combined with the anti-DRM policies, and embracing of used games, Sony certainly won the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere.


The whole Infinity Ward fiasco was years ago at this point, and since then, very little information has been leaked from Respawn’s new project. Titanfall looks to grab fans of Call of Duty and Halo, with an always-online sci-fi epic shooter. The game demo’d incredibly well, and the fact that XBox One managed to secure this game as an exclusive is a major coup.

Sequels Everyone’s Been Asking For

“Shut up, nerds.”

That seemed to be the message several developers were sending this year at E3. Major franchises, long-dormant, have been resurrected for the next-gen. Star Wars Battlefront, Mirror’s Edge, Kingdom Hearts, Killer Instinct, and more were all given grand unveiling. Now, admittedly, some of these games will almost certainly be disappointments (I’m looking at you, Killer Instinct) but just having them come back from the dead is enough to pump up fans of the classic games that inspired them.

The Bad:

Nintendo Plays it Safe

Now, I’m no Nintendo fan. The last system I’ve owned from the Big N was the Nintendo 64. And even then, I never really found myself compelled by the big franchises like Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon. But I can totally accept that a lot of people live and die by these games, and more power to them. Nintendo decided to forgo a typical presser, in exchange for an incredibly weird, standing room only, cramped, show-floor...speech...thing.

New entries in the Mario, Donkey Kong, and Super Smash Brothers franchises were all announced, as well as an HD update of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. Only two new third-party IPs were shown: The Wonderful 101, and a new mech game called X. The Wii U is going to have a hard time staying relevant this holiday season as it is, and these uninspired, by the book, kid-friendly sequels aren’t enough to keep Nintendo in the headlines for long.

No J Allard

Seriously, what else is that guy doing?

Current Gen Gets Shoved Aside

Amidst the fanfare of new consoles, several AAA titles for the current gen were breezed over very quickly during E3. Batman: Arkham Origins, Beyond: Two Souls, and Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2 are all due for release later this year. These were be no-brainer major hits during any other year, but with gamers working to save their cash for the next generation, this last gasp of the the XBox 360 and PS3 could see significant sales drops.

The Ugly:

Microsoft’s Messaging Disaster

Oh man. I don’t think I’ve seen a company flounder like this in a long time. Already pissing off gamers with their “Draconian” policies regarding used games, and always-online requirements, Microsoft did little-to-nothing to address these issues at E3.

Well, except saying that people who can’t be always-online “can buy an XBox 360.” Yeah, that’s not exactly how you treat consumers, Microsoft.

Technical Difficulties

Several demos at E3 suffered from severe technical difficulties. Assassin’s Creed IV locked up several times during the on-stage demo during the Ubisoft conference. Crimson Dragon’s major re-unveiling trailer during the Microsoft conference was devoid of audio, and most cringe-worthy of all was the minute-long wait for the Battlefield demo to properly begin.

Ouch. This isn’t how you want your game to be presented to the public, and you have to feel for the development teams who worked long days, nights, and weekends in the lead-up to E3, in an effort to polish their games as best they could.


Most alarmingly of all, lots of real-world thefts were reported this year at E3. Perhaps most notably, Giant Bomb suffered a major burglary, and lost the majority of their livestream equipment. This kind of thing is always tough to deal with, and having it happen during a generally positive event like E3 brings the mood down considerably. The city of Los Angeles needs to step up their efforts to make the city welcoming to the industry, or E3 could easily go elsewhere. And that might not be a bad thing.

Chris has already preordered a PS4. He is a sheep.

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How (Not) to Win Friends and Influence People: Indie Game Dev...

There's a few things I'd like to state up front here. I am not trying to personally attack anyone in this article, merely attempting to report on what I feel is an entertaining story from the world of games.

But, over the past 48 hours, something truly magical has happened, mostly on the popular website Reddit. Keith Burgun, lead game designer at Dinofarm Games, posted a classified ad in hopes of finding a programmer to work on their upcoming iOS game Auro. This game would be the second commercial release from Dinofarm Games, their first being the iOS roguelike 100 Rogues. Despite only asking for $7500, Auro eventually reached the final pledge total of $14,571. That's quite a bit of money, and is evidence to the fact that there is an audience that is extremely interested in what Dinofarm Games was promoting.

The classified ad was originally posted to the subreddit /r/gamedevclassifieds, but was eventually removed, presumably under the wishes of Dinofarm. In the interest of clarity, Reddit user HoboCup took a screen shot of the classified ad, which you can find below.

Click to enlarge, silly!

As you can see, Dinofarm was offering a stipend of $200 a week, with a promise of 20% of Auro's eventual profits. If that seems to you like a pretty small amount of money, for quite a bit of work, you're not alone. Reddit jumped all over the posting, with many users taking Dinofarm to task for the relatively low amount of money being offered to the prospective programmer.

Reddit user attrition0 had the following to say to the ad:

"Why is it only 20% share when you're expected to do much more than 20% of the work? The designer is saying half the game is done, the programmer in me calls bullshit on that -- the first half tends to be getting graphics up, getting some movement, basic stuff. The last half is much, much harder. 6 months expectation at $200 a week? That barely covers half of my rent.They had a kickstarter that gained $14k, and they chose not to spend that money on a programmer. That was a huge mistake."

Similar sentiments were shared by many other users on the thread, with the game designer, to his credit, responding to nearly every piece of criticism sent his way. That seemed to only make matters worse. A back-and-forth between Dinofarm and Reddit user tensofdollars went as such:


What's really, really funny here is that I've been doing the whole indie-gaming gig for about 15 or so years, and there have been probably 50 times in my life that I've went on the internet looking for a programmer.


If you have been doing this for 15 years and are unable to afford to hire a programmer FOR YOUR SOFTWARE COMPANY you're doing something terribly wrong."

As the conversation continued, things seemed to take a personal turn, with several Redditors resorting to name-calling and other such behavior. As far as Internet forums go, it's pretty much a by the book flame-war.

What's troubling though, and worthy of mentioning as news, is the nature of the Auro Kickstarter. The sum of nearly $15,000 achieved is, by any imagination, a huge success. However, the fact that Dinofarm Games seemed unsure of what exactly they needed the money for attracted quite a bit of discussion.

On the Kickstarter page, Auro is credited as being programmed by Ido Yehieli, a fairly well-known name amongst Roguelike fans. However, Dinofarm has since stated that Mr. Yehieli was merely brought on in order to bring to game up to a level of polish for the Kickstater campaign. From this point on, Auro will be finished by another programmer, presumably much less well-known than Ido.

This fact angered a few of Auro's Kickstarter backers, such as peterb12 who had this to say

"As a backer of Auro, I absolutely agree with what a number of redditors, but especially brdma, are saying here. If their Kickstarter page had said "We need to hire a programmer" rather than "Programming is being done by Ido Yehieli", I would absolutely have not backed the project, because hiring a competent developer as part of a project funded with only $7500 is a complete fucking fantasy."

As you may or may not be aware, Kickstarter is pretty much completely free of any obligation to make good on the projects that are funded on the site. Their Terms of Use state:

"Kickstarter is not liable for any damages or loss incurred related to rewards or any other use of the Service. All dealings are solely between Users. Kickstarter is under no obligation to become involved in disputes between any Users, or between Users and any third party. This includes, but is not limited to, delivery of goods and services, and any other terms, conditions, warranties, or representations associated with campaigns on the Site. Kickstarter does not oversee the performance or punctuality of projects."

So you can see why some of Auro's backers are pretty upset by these recent events. Many recent successes on Kickstarter, particularly in the gaming space, have attracted an amazingly large amount of attention. Following the huge success of Double Fine Adventure, seemingly every classic genre and developer came out of the woodwork, hoping to ride the hype train straight into Gravy Town.

The Ouya, the Android-powered "console" closed out it's Kickstarter with over $8.5 million. That is mind-blowing. But the Ouya is also not without its skeptics. Ben Kuchera, of Penny Arcade, recently wrote an extremely in-depth look at what exactly the Ouya is, and what it isn't. It's incredibly easy to be impressed by a Kickstarter pitch, and I myself have donated to a few of them.

The circus around this Dinofarm Games posting, therefore, goes much deeper than regular old Internet drama. Almost a thousand people pledged nearly $15,000 into a company that can't quite articulate where the money is going. And, since the project is fully funded, that money is now theirs to do what they want with it.

It seems that Dinofarm will make good on delivering Auro. They appear to be extremely passionate about their genre, and the games they create. It remains to be seen, however, just how much goodwill their audience will continue to extend in their direction. As we saw with the Ocean Marketting disaster, sometimes it's better to leave the PR to the professionals.

A final note: I fully expect Dinofarm Games to find their way to this article. I welcome them to comment and provide their own input and analysis of the situation. I have tried to merely present facts, as they happened, in order to illuminate the sometimes unseen world of indie game development. Thanks for reading.


The Shame of it All: My Stack of Unplayed Games

Originally posted at www.knowngriefers.com. Hope you enjoy!

Sometimes being a gamer means knowing when to throw in the towel. Some games are simply never going to get played, much less beaten. However, even that understanding usually isn't enough to stop you from buying those Clearance Sale treasures. And garage sales? They are veritable gold mines just waiting to be ransacked. But what happens when those neglected games start piling up? Will you ever get around to actually playing them? Chris takes a hard look in the mirror, at his stash of unplayed games, and how he got to this point.

Well, a while ago, I turned a corner. Videogames became more than a form of entertainment for me. They became something for me to collect. Throughout my life, I've always had something of an obsessive personality. I find something that speaks to me, and I consume every single detail about it. My first love was Ghostbusters, and I had all the trappings. The tan jumpsuit, the Proton Pack and gun, the trap, the Slimer Big Wheel, I had it all. One of my earliest memories is going to see the Ecto-1 at the grand opening of a local grocery store.


After Ghostbusters, I became a huge TMNT fan. I had a treasure chest full of the action figures, and had all the VHS tapes my parents could afford. I saw the Ninja Turtles Live! stage show, in which Shredder threatened to steal everyone's voices in the audience. My young brain couldn't handle such a terrible deed, and I burst out into such uncontrollable tears that my aunt had to escort me from the building. I'm unsure of whether or not I actually saw the end of the show, but I know for a fact I owned the Pizza Hut exclusive soundtrack.

In the mid 90s, Star Wars started to get big again. The relaunch of the Power of the Force action figure line was huge for me. I spent nearly every week's allowance on the newest additions to the line, and bought nearly every Star Wars-branded thing I could find for the next few years. Fortunately, the prequels soon came along, and killed just about every shred of nostalgia I had for the Star Wars franchise.

After college, I decided that drinking was a pretty good way to spend the time. My roommate at the time, friend-of-the-site Adam Marcey, and I spent quite a few years drinking our early 20s away. Sometime in 2006, Adam brought home an Xbox 360, and hooked it up to his new HDTV. After several weeks of Call of Duty 4 waking me up with its massive explosions, combined with Adam's complete lack of ability to get past the TV station raid, I knew that gaming had gotten its hooks back in me.

Chris and Adam. In happier times.

I bought Marvel Ultimate Alliance and NBA 2K7, and found myself enjoying games for the first time in a few years. I had pretty much stopped buying games sometime in 2002 or 2003, and only occasionally got back into it. Games like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus were amazing, but I simply had better things to do. Namely: drink until I passed out.

In 2008, I purchased my very own Xbox 360, and ever since then, all bets are off. I've attempted to make up for the years I wasn't paying much attention to games, and my wallet has felt the effects ever since. I started off by buying Adam's old games off of him, and then progressed to the money vampire that is eBay. I bought up nearly all of the AAA games for the 360 that appealed to me: Bioshock, Skate, COD4, Assassin's Creed, etc.

At some point I started buying games faster than I could play them. Then, I started getting into the past generations.

A few PS2 games I always wanted to play caught my eye. Hitman 2 was only a couple bucks at GameStop. Lord of the Rings looked awesome. A Bard's Tale? Sure, why not. And Spider-Man: Friend or Foe continued my love affair with the Webbed One. However, I've never gotten around to any of these games. For one reason or another, they all sit on my shelf, unplayed and unloved. I keep telling myself I'll get around to them, but will I?

The answer is: probably not, but that hasn't stopped me from buying up all kinds of games I'll never get around to.

Fable III Collector's Edition was marked down to $20 at Target sometime around Christmas. I bought it immediately, as I'm a huge fan of Fable II. However, months went by and I never got around to opening it. At a certain point, the fact that it was a sealed Collector's Edition meant I COULDN'T open it, lest I destroy any collectible value it may have. To this day, it sits sealed on my shelf. Though, I'd actually like to play it sometimes. I even downloaded the DLC, for Christ's sake.

Fusion Frenzy 2 was a birthday gift from Rock, as was Deus Ex. Rainbow Six: Vegas was a gift from a well-meaning friend, although it's just too hard for me. Earth Defense Force was bought for its sheer dumbness at a Blockbuster Video closing sale. The rest of the games pictured were all spur-of-the-moment clearance sales, or thrift store finds. I swear I'll get around to them. Someday.

Speaking of thrift stores, they have been the source of some of my best gaming deals. MDK is a game I've been interested in for a long time, if only for the relationship it has to the Tony Hawk Pro Skater franchise. Both that and Cool Boarders 4 were bought for about $0.50 each, a price I feel is more than fair. Even if I never get around to playing them, I'd be losing money by NOT buying them! The N64 carts were part of the Craigslist purchase that net me a Jungle Green N64. I'm sure both Donkey Kong 64 and Cruisin' World are good games, but my N64 is basically a WWF No Mercy machine.

The SNES carts were bought at a garage sale for $0.25 each. I also picked up Mario All-Stars and Mario's Time Machine at the same sale. The only problem? I don't actually own a SNES. Hmm.

So as you can see, I've got quite a bit of games to keep me busy. For the immediate future, I'll probably continue to plug through Skryim. After that, it's anybody's guess. Is there anything you'd like to see me dive into? Cuz I'll do it. I got nothing but time. Time, and a lot of games.

Christopher Linendoll is in debt. He can be reached via Twitter, or found in the hummus section of your local grocery store.


Looking on the Bright Side of Nintendo's E3

A blog post I originally posted at www.knowngriefers.com. I tend to dabble a bit too much in Internet Snark and tried to put on my positivity hat!

E3 2012 has come and gone, and Chris takes a look back at the most polarizing part of the show: Nintendo's unveiling of the WiiU. Were things really as bad as they seemed? Or was this merely a case of a very Japanese company miscalculating what to show to American audiences?

If you follow the videogame business closely for any amount of time, it's easy to find yourself jaded rather quickly. Predictable sequels, games pushed into and out of financial quarters, and "in-engine gameplay" videos that turn out to be pie-in-the-sky daydreams are something that have become all too common in recent years. As the industry has grown, and the Internet has shone a spotlight on once-niche hobbies, game companies have scrambled to become more media savvy. Perhaps the brightest lights are focused on the industry during E3, the annual trade show for videogames.

Just last week, E3 2012 took place in Los Angeles, also known as the Windy City. This years' version of the show was quite an interesting one, if only for how oddly low-key it was. The only major news most people were looking forward to was the public unveiling of Nintendo's WiiU console. That is, if they were even aware that the WiiU IS a new console, and not simply an accessory for the Wii. Seems that CNN didn't catch that one little newsbit.

Most people on the World Wide Internet seem to share the same opinion of the Nintendo E3 showing: underwhelmed. And that's being nice. I, personally, live-tweeted my disappointment in the press conference as it happened, and I don't feel as though I was overly-harsh. Part of the fun of E3 in this day and age is sharing your immediate first impressions via Twitter with the rest of the industry, and Twitter was abuzz with pretty negative feelings towards the WiiU's coming out party.

I confess that it can be easy to caught up in all the Internet snark concerning the flop of a presser Nintendo put on. But after taking a week or so to let it all sink in, I've decided to take a fresh look at what the big N rolled out this year. I truly feel as though there's some pretty great things that came out of the House of Mario at E3 2012, it just takes a little bit of digging.

Pikmin 3 was announced by a smiling Shigeru Miyamoto, who always brightens up the room with his infectious smile. It's obvious that this guy honestly believes in whatever product he is showing off, and simply wants to share his joy with the world. Miyamoto spoke of the new gameplay additions to Pikmin 3 with all the love and affection of a proud father. Whether of not Pikmin is your particular favorite Nintendo series, it was easy to see the graphical upgrades over previous iterations, and was a bright start to the show.

Once Reggie took the stage, it was all business. Reggie doesn't play, and he was here to kick ass and take names. Promising 23 game announcements, Reggie took a few moments to mention that Hulu and Netflix will appear on the WiiU. If you're like me, there are sometimes weeks where your game console will become a Netflix Box, and it's a major plus for these services to be available day one. More and more, game systems are becoming the once mythical "set top box" and Nintendo made sure the WiiU will be a contender in that space.

Among the games announced during this time was New Super Mario Bros. U. And while I have dismissed the "New" Mario games in the past, these games have sold major numbers. The original Nintendo DS New Super Mario Bros has sold over 20 million copies since launching the franchise in 2006. It also scored high with critics, ranking in at 89% on Metacritic. The semi-sequel, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, launched to amazing success and as of December 2011 has sold over 30 million copies. It stands to reason that the WiiU iteration will sell in equally staggering numbers, and will likely be the #1 seller for the system at launch.

You can smell the money. So can Reggie.

It was an odd choice for Nintendo to highlight Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition as their 3rd party centerpiece, and it seemed to take the air out of the room. Far too much time was dedicated to showing off the half-assed motion controls added to Arkham, and it seemed to confirm fears that 3rd parties don't really know what to do with the WiiU's unique tablet controller. Simply bolting on terrible looking minigames is NOT how Nintendo should be courting multi-platform games on their new machine. Lack of third party support led to the demise of all three of Nintendo's last home consoles, and they cannot afford to let that happen again.

Fortunately, some games that were glossed over during the show seemed to hold greater promise for the WiiU. Scribblenauts Unlimited continues the charming series with HD graphics and a great looking new modifier system. The tablet is a perfect fit for Scribblenauts, allowing the player to easily type out new words, and try to get some hot bear on bear action going on. Scribblenauts will appeal perfectly to Nintendo's traditional younger fanbase, and it's smart of them to lock up a new installment for the WiiU.

And for the older gamers, ZombiU seems to provide some pretty intense action. In direct contrast to the infuriatingly paltry additions to Arkham City, ZombiU looks to take full advantage of both screens. Using the Gamepad, players will have access to inventory, scanners, and sniper scopes. It's immersive experiences like this that will only be available on the WiiU, and Nintendo needs to look to 3rd parties to provide more games like this for their new console. Simply having a few M-rated, WiiU specific titles per year will go a long way toward winning back fans who were put off by the cutesy shovelware that flooded the Wii.

The close out the show, Nintendo took a major gamble on dedicating a lot of time to NintendoLand. Ostensibly a minigame collection, NintendoLand looks to be the WiiU's Wii Sports. Those are massive shoes to fill, and it will not be easy to capture as massive an audience as Wii Sports did. You know why? Because Wii Sports sold nearly 80 millions copies worldwide. Sure, it was a pack-in in America, but was sold separately in Japan, where it was also a major hit. NintendoLand has yet to be announced as a pack-in, but all signs point to it being included in the WiiU box.

NintendoLand has an advantage over Wii Sports in that it will feature recognizable Nintendo properties, which are truly where the appeal of Nintendo hardware lies. Knowing that this will be the only place to get the newest Zelda, Mario, Metroid, Donkey Kong, and Pokemon games is a, if not THE, major selling point of the WiiU. It is no surprise then that NintendoLand features twelve minigames all based around major Nintendo characters. There's a sword game featuring Link, a minecart game with Donkey Kong, and a ghost hunting game with Luigi.

When you add in the fact that the WiiU is known to feature Skylanders-like NFC capabilities, the possibilities are endless as to what kind of unique experiences the WiiU may offer. Perhaps this will be the era of the fabled Pokemon MMO, or a Mario 64-like paradigm shift for the next proper 3D Mario game. Developers will surely need some time to figure out how to properly utilize the touch screen controller, and players should brace themselves for quite a bit of junky additions, ala Arkham City. After some time though, the WiiU could turn out to be a major player in the console wars once again. It's never a smart idea to count Nintendo out of the race, they are a smart company run by smart people. It's going to be an exciting time in the next 18 months to be a gamer, and the WiiU leads the way when it launches later this year.

Maybe. No release date has been announced.


Christopher Linendoll really wanted to enjoy the WiiU. He can be reached via Twitter, or found in the hummus section of your local grocery store.


Parallel Paths of Nintendo, Marvel Comics and the WWE.

Thought I'd share a post I recently at : http://www.knowngriefers.com/2012/05/parallel-paths-how-nintendo-marvel.html

If there are three nerdier topics for this essay, I’d like to see them. Videogames, pro wrestling, and comic books all played a huge part in my childhood, and continue to entertain me to this day. That’s not to say there haven’t been very serious ups-and-downs in my fandom over the past 25 years. All of these products have experienced incredible highs, and dismal failures in their recent history. What you may not realize is just how similar of paths they’ve all taken to their current success. It seems almost cosmic in a way, as if God Himself is a giant friggin’ dork.

In the mid 1980s, the world was given a wondrous gift: yours truly. Being born in 1985 allowed me to partake in one of the golden eras of popular culture. Everything awesome about the 80s happened in the latter part of the decade, and the early 90s were basically a 80s hangover. Saturday morning cartoons, fashion, and pop music were all neon and sugar, and I happily danced my childhood away with Hammer pants, lines in the side of my hair, and Color Me Badd cassette tapes. Yes, this was truly a magical time to be alive.

That being said, the WWE (then known as the WWF) was exploding into the national spotlight. Hulk Hogan signed on with Vince McMahon’s Connecticut-based promotion, and was pushed into popular culture at an incredibly brisk pace. After appearing in movies, TV shows, and cartoons, the Hulkster was everywhere. Everyone recognized his trademark yellow and red bandana, and his signature blond handlebar mustache. The WWE was a very kid-friendly product in these days, and Hogan encouraged kids to say their prayers, eat their vitamins, and listen to their parents. Like I said, this was pure fluff they were pushing.

At the same time, Nintendo released the NES in 1985, and brought the videogame market back from the brink of collapse. Mario became an icon, and soon his face was plastered on backpacks, clothes, toys, and whatever else Nintendo could slap him on. Nintendo’s runaway success came on the backs on Mario, Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and other franchises that they would go on to stick with for many, many years. The NES was in every home with a child in the 1980s, eventually selling 62 million units. Chances are, if you were growing up in this decade, you had Nintendo’s little grey box in your house.

A glorious crossroads of 80s childhood.

Comic books were also gaining momentum, after decades of stagnation due to the strictly enforced Comics Code, brought upon by a McCarthy-like witch-hunt of the 1950s. The relaxing of the Code, along with the infusion on new, younger talent, meant comics were expanding at a rapid rate in the 80s. Independent artists like Dave Sims created Cerebus, while Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird birthed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Major publishers like DC and Marvel also saw major boosts in critical and commercial success, with hits like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, and Todd McFarlane’s earth-shattering run on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Charging into the 1990s, all three of these cultural forces had a head full of steam behind them. Riding high on the backs of their rising successes of the 80s, expansion was on everyone’s minds. Nintendo released the Super Nintendo in the summer of 1991, much to the delight of children everywhere. Released years after the Sega Genesis, the SNES’s pack-in game was the masterful Super Mario World. The colorful graphics, jaunty soundtrack, and sublime gameplay all came together to usher in a new era in gaming.

Propelled by the success of the Game Boy and the SNES, Nintendo was on top of the world. A key ingredient to the success of Nintendo’s consoles was the continued cooperation and promotion of third party titles. Mega Man, Final Fantasy, and Street Fighter all saw enormous sales on the SNES, in addition to Nintendo-owned properties such as Mario, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox.

Similarly bolstered by their success, the WWF saw major new stars emerge in the early 1990s. Shawn Michaels, Razor Ramon, and Bret Hart soon gained more and more screen time, eventually leading to more exposure than Hogan was receiving. In 1993, the WWF saw two major changes occur: Monday Night Raw premiered on USA, and Hulk Hogan left the company. Both of these occurrences would have major repercussions in the future.

Hogan signed with Ted Turner’s WCW promotion, a Southern-based company generally seen as the minor leagues. The arrival of Hogan signaled a sea change in the wrestling world, brought upon somewhat due to Vince McMahon’s self-assured attitude. Feeling that the WWF would continue to grow without Hogan, McMahon came to feel that no one was bigger than his company, and numerous disgruntled talents would soon follow Hogan to WCW.

This feeling of discontent and resentment could also be felt at Marvel Comics. Artists and writers such as Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen, Whilce Portacio, and Rob Liefeld were creating top-selling titles and characters, while working for standard freelance wages. Feeling that their work was being exploited by merchandising, without proper restitution, a group of eight creators left Marvel. According to reports, Marvel’s shares fell sharply upon public release of this news.

WWE comics. Not by Marvel, but still...

These eight talents formed Image Comics, which launched massive successes such as Spawn, Savage Dragon, and WildC.A.T.s. These titles sold millions of copies, and were soon sold on the collectors market for hundreds of times their retail price. Each of the Image founders found immediate financial success after the launch of their own imprint, and creators like Jeff Smith (Bone) and Dale Keown (The Hulk) soon signed on.

The good times could not last.

Similarly blinded by their own success, Nintendo backed out of an agreement with Sony to produce a CD-ROM add-on for the SNES. Planned to be announced at the 1991 CES, the Play Station was to be a Sony-branded game console, capable of playing both standard SNES carts, and disk-based game. However, Nintendo found the terms of their contract with Sony to be unsatisfactory to their business plan. Rather than terminating the contract outright, Nintendo contracted Philips to produce a SNES CD-ROM peripheral. This would eventually turn into the stillborn CD-i.

Sony found the betrayal by Nintendo to be just the fuel they needed to launch their own gaming console. The PlayStation launched in America in 1995, and went on the sell over 100 million units worldwide. Handily winning this era of the “console wars,” the PlayStation outsold Nintendo’s Nintendo 64 console nearly 4 to 1. This was the first time in the modern era Nintendo was ever number two, and was the beginning of the end for Nintendo’s dominance in the hardware market.

Meanwhile, the explosion of pro wrestling’s popularity in the mid to late 90s would prove to be disastrous to the industry. Bolstered by their success, WCW began spending more money than they were earning, and allowed egos to run rampant backstage. Mid-tier performers left the company in droves, and WCW soon found itself insolvent. Following the AOL/Time Warner merger in 2001, WCW was put up for sale. In a move that shocked fans, Vince McMahon bought the rights to all WCW’s performers and video libraries for a paltry sum of $4 million.

4 of these bought WCW.

Coupled with the collapse of ECW, the Philadelphia-based promotion run by Paul Heyman, in the same timeframe, the WWE found itself as the only game in town. Without competition, the WWE became over-crowded, and main event stars such as Triple H and The Undertaker did their best to bury, on-screen and off, all newcomers to the company. The mid 2000s were a low point in many ways for the WWE, and the company lost a sizable chunk of their viewership. TV ratings, which were routinely in the 6.0 range in the latter half of the 90s, fell to nearly half that. The transition from TV-14 to TV-PG content also caused a fair amount of fans to tune out.

Marvel Comics found itself in a similar state. After the exodus of the Image founders, Marvel soon began a series of startlingly bad storyline decisions. The infamous Spider-Man Clone Saga caused loyal fans to drop the books, seemingly for years at a time. Multi-title crossovers ran rampant, and gimmick covers caused the collectors market to burst. Coupled with failed business ventures, such as a Times Square theme restaurant, Marvel filed for bankruptcy.

Not running your company well, Spider-Man.

It took years for the comic giant to emerge from their failures, eventually relying on toy manufacturer Toy Biz to bail them out. It wasn’t until Marvel’s film division took off; starting with 2001’s Spider-Man that things began to look bright for Marvel’s future. Bolstered by their success in Hollywood, the comics themselves found new audiences. New imprints such as Marvel Knights and MAX lured in an older, more mature audience, and a new crop of creators brought new life to the iconic characters.

Recently, all three of our subjects have been mounting comebacks of sorts. Disney purchased Marvel Comics in 2009, ushering in a new era of merchandising and television exposure. Just this past month, The Avengers launched to record-breaking numbers at the box office, and an all-new Spider-Man movie series is starting this summer.

Nintendo plans to launch their new hardware platform, the WiiU by the end of 2012. Following the mainstream appeal of the original Wii, the WiiU looks to introduce gamers to a new way of playing games, coming with a unique tablet-like controller. Franchises like Mario, Zelda, and Metroid continue to appeal to audiences new and old, and there’s little doubt that they will appear in major titles on the WiiU. Despite heavy losses for fiscal year 2011, Nintendo looks to turn their fortunes around in 2012.

The WWE has similarly made a big splash in the new year. In the summer of 2011, fan-favorite CM Punk launched into a non-scripted “shoot” promo in which he railed against the “good old boy” structure of the WWE. Punk took performers like John Cena and The Rock to task for being boring, and unfairly favored by the McMahon family. Fans loved this 4th wall breaking speech, as Punk expressed feelings some fans had for years about the WWE product.

One's a vegan, one's straight edge. Both have beards.

This, in turn, led to CM Punk merchandise flying out the door. Being the businessman he is, Vince McMahon took this as a sign to put the WWE Championship on CM Punk. With his newfound fanbase, Punk has continued to hold the belt for months. In another surprising move, Punk’s good friend Daniel Bryan was awarded the other heavyweight belt in the company, leading to a strange case of two scrawny, bearded, “indie” workers becoming the faces of the WWE. Suddenly, the overly-tanned, muscular superheroes like Hulk Hogan and Leg Luger gave way to a vegan and a straight edge punk rocker. Fans, especially on the Internet have embraced this new era of pro wrestling, and hope it signals a bright future ahead.

In a few short years, it will be all too obvious how these industries have handled their new endeavors. However, for the time being, this is going to be one hell of a time. For the most part, it seems like things are on an upswing, and I'm hoping the trend continues for all three companies. Pop culture wouldn't be the same without them, and I personally would be much less entertained. I might even have to find some new hobbies, and even do something outdoors. Gross.

Christopher Linendoll can feel his Spider-Sense tingling. He can be reached via Twitter, or found in the hummus section of your local grocery store.