By Jared Newman | Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 5:47 pm
Even as skateboarding legend Tony Hawk mechanically read from the teleprompter during Microsoft’s E3 press conference in June, I got the sense that he was genuinely excited for Tony Hawk: Ride, which uses a motion-sensing, skateboard-shaped peripheral instead of a traditional controller.
Turns out, gamers didn’t share his enthusiasm, as Tony Hawk: Ride sold only 114,000 units across all three current-generation consoles in its November debut, according to IndustryGamers.
It’s actually surprising that the game performed so well. On the review aggregation site Metacritic, the game has an average score of 48, and aside from a few glowing reviews, the general opinion is below average or downright negative. The controls didn’t work, critics said, and the game itself felt sloppy and rehashed from a dozen other Tony Hawk skating games.
But I like Patrick Klepek’s theory over at G4: Ride was doomed from the start, he argues, because it doesn’t offer the easy fantasy that makes games like Guitar Hero or Wii Sports so compelling. At worst, it only frustrates the player into understanding the difficulty of real skating, but you get none of the thrill in the process.
This reminds me of what I’ve previously written about music games: Even to musicians, they’re fun because they encourage a shared obsession over the nuances of music, even among people who aren’t aficionados or fellow musicians. In other words, Guitar Hero and Rock Band offer an experience that even real instruments can’t duplicate. The same can’t be said for Tony Hawk: Ride. If you can ride a skateboard, you’ll get very little out of the game, and if you can’t, you’ll get even less.
I should’ve known Tony Hawk: Ride would flop when I saw the game’s E3 Trailer. “If you’ve had an interest in skating, but maybe didn’t want to put yourself in a position of getting injured, here’s your chance,” said pro skater Paul Rodriguez. When a game’s primary reason for existence is avoiding injury, that’s a bad sign.