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Shovelware

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Good thing we have a shovel to bury these games where they belong, in a specially marked chest underground where no one will find them.

Shovelware games are video games that are made with a low budget and possibly little time, resulting in poor quality, terrible programming, numerous flaws such as crashing frequently, and possibly lots of glitches as well. Shovelware developers have a "quantity over quality" mentality, so rather than working hard on making a good or at least average game, they insist on throwing out as much games as possible to make a quick buck on platforms. Shovelware is labeled as the tool used to quickly dig rocks out of the ground. Usually, shovelware titles are made for licensed franchises such as television shows, movies, toys and books to sell more copies based on brand recognition alone. These games are often at a lower price than other AAA games and are often found in bargain bins.

Normally, each gaming generation has a specific "shovelware target" platform where most shovelware games end at often because it's the easiest platform to release games for, such as the Atari 2600, Nintendo Entertainment System, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Wii, currently PS4 (mostly on the PS Store), DS, Game Boy Color and Nintendo Switch (mostly on the eShop as well). Steam, in particular, has become arguably became the worst offender of shovelware target platforms due to its complete lack of quality control (and attempts at quality control like Greenlight and Direct backfiring).

A slightly different but arguably just as crappy form of shovelware also existed back in the 1990s, thanks to the advent and large storage capacities of CDs, it was common for companies to cram in as many old and cheap to license floppy disk games on a single one as possible and sell it as "100 games for the price of one!". Many of them often being otherwise free shareware games.

Examples

  1. Data Design Interactive released a game of such term, titled Ninjabread Man, released for the PS2, Microsoft Windows and the Wii. A day later, a clone of the game, Anubis II, was released. More games like Myth Makers: Trixie in Toyland, Rock 'N' Roll Adventures, Action Girlz Racing, Kawasaki Jet Ski and others were released some years later for the PS2 and Wii.
  2. Digital Homicide Studios flooded Steam Greenlight with tons of shovelware with the intention of farming Steam Trading Cards, often putting countless amounts of reskins of the same game over and over. At one point they had over 100 entries on Steam Greenlight.
  3. The practice of asset flipping allows people to easily produce massive amounts of shovelware by copy-pasting pre-made assets into free-to-use game engines, which can then be released with little trouble on Steam. Nowadays, Steam is infamous for the countless amount of shovelware overshadowing real quality games. This has gone to the point that now many indie developers are abandoning Steam and because it's "too crowded". Most of those games are made with Unity, an easy-to-use game engine that contains an asset store.
  4. Generic RPG Maker games are the RPG Maker equivalent of shovelware, and due to Steam Greenlight has caused these games to degrade RPG Maker's reputation. Games such as Raywin and Arcane Raise are examples of this.
  5. Generic hentai shovelware games are the Hentai equivalent of shovelware. They flooded Steam after Valve announced they would getting rid of restrictions regarding adult video games. These "games" would eventually overshadow genuine adult video games as much as ordinary shovelware does to normal games and consoles.
  6. The PS4 version of the PS Store was filled with tons of shovelware. In fact, the PlayStation 4's PlayStation Store quality control is so poor that it makes Steam Greenlight look tolerable. Hell, even Sony promotes said games!
  7. Each of Nintendo's portable systems had shovelware games released due to their successes and popularity, from the Game Boy to the Nintendo 3DS. A good chunk of these are usually based on movies or television shows that were popular at the time of their release.
  8. Some mobile games are ported on mainstream platforms, but they often end up being even worse on these platforms mostly because they're either shovelware, they aren't optimized for game controllers or computer accessories, or they have no changes (not even the controls) whatsoever. However, some of these ports have worked well and eliminate the need for an Android emulator like the highly demanding BlueStacks.
  9. The Wii had tons of shovelware games released for it due to the console's popularity with casual audiences and the console's innovative motion-based control scheme.
  10. Steam Direct has made the shovelware problems on Steam that it was supposed to fix the quality control but it was even worse than they were before because anyone can publish their game on Steam Direct.
  11. Because of the popularity of mobile gaming, major mobile game stores such as the App Store became easy targets of shovelware. Developers like Voodoo especially use the "hyper-casual" genre as an excuse to publish many lazily-made games that often have heavy lag, tons of ads, pay-to-win mechanics and overly simple gameplay. And because the Google Play Store completely lacks quality control, it is the worst offender out of all mobile game stores, having rip-offs of other games and bootlegs, and even applications that are outright malware.
  12. Indie game platforms like Game Jolt and Itch.io have a ton of shovelware, asset flips, and games that look like rejected Steam Greenlight titles.
  13. Although there are still many awesome games on the site, the Roblox game section is filled with countless shovelware, including but not limited to: Obbies, Tycoons, Cafes and even rip-offs of popular games. As it's free to make and publish places and because there is barely any quality control, it's simple for bad developers to make a quick buck. In fact, there's too much shovelware that there is even a group dedicated to that, named Shovelware Obbies, but the budget ironically seems higher than a typical Shovelware game.
  14. SpongeBob SquarePants: Plankton's Robotic Revenge and SpongeBob HeroPants both developed by Behaviour Interactive and published by Activision were both critically panned video games based off the SpongeBob SquarePants franchise. Both games were criticized for being repetitive level design, boring gameplay, having poor graphics compared to its CGI cutscenes, and lame plot, both games were also rip-offs of Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One. Luckily, THQ Nordic re-acquired the SpongeBob license and with it, recently released the fan-acclaimed Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated.
  15. BAM! Entertainment is definitely no stranger to producing shovelware titles such as Dexter's Laboratory: Robot Rampage and The Powerpuff Girls: Paint the Townsville Green. They are mostly known to producing shovelware Cartoon Network game titles like the ones mentioned in this reason right here.
  16. Acclaim Entertainment is also one of the main examples of shovelware, but mostly in the 8-bit and 16-bit era, many of their games published such as Total Recall, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Krusty's Fun House. are mostly known for publishing shovelware titles based on popular comics, television series and movies like the ones mentioned.
  17. Adobe Flash used to be the holy grail of the shovelware, as anybody could create a game and publish it for free. However, it was more collaborative trend to share something with the community than a media to lure and generate shady incomes. For example, Newgrounds and Kongregate.
  18. Sports games published by Head Games Publishing under the Extreme banner became infamous for their exceptionally low quality of production. The games were horribly rushed, especially Extreme Paintbrawl, where the production process only took two weeks. Paintbrawl was considered one of the worst games of all time for a reason, but somehow got sequels. The most notable games under this brand are Extreme Paintbrawl with its sequels, Extreme Boards & Blades, Extreme Wintersports, Extreme Bullrider, and Extreme Rock Climbing.
  19. While the AAA game industry is made from games/developers with much higher budget than shovelware games/developers ever had, this doesn't mean AAA gaming industry is stranger to shovelware. Some games/game series technically fit into (at least) some aspects of the definition of "shovelware", with the worst offender being the Madden NFL series (WTS #1,#5 and #15 and #18 fits into 2017 and above at a large extent).
  20. There are some companies in the indie game industry that develop horror games that one releases a successful game, and the other fails. Examples of horror games that classify as shovelware are squalid Resident Evil rip-offs, for example the Outbreak series by Dead Drop Studios and Dawn of Fear by Brok3nsite.
  21. Like the Wii, the V.Smile has a ton of shovelware games.

Why They Suck

  1. They're usually filled with lots of glitches such as mechanics being broken or not working because they were not programmed or terribly coded, players clipping through floors, infinite loading screens, framerate issues, and frequent crashes.
  2. Some shovelware games have boring gameplay such as repetitive level design, the games taking too long for the player to get control.
  3. Sometimes the gameplay would be cloned/ripped off from other games just for a quick buck, except much worse as they will plagiarize code and parts of the game from the source material. Mole Kart is an example of this tactic.
  4. Developers will prefer "quantity over quality", as shovelware developers would release several games in one year alone, two of the best examples being Digital Homicide and Silicon Echo Studios.
  5. Sometimes they'd release the game over and over but change the textures and sometimes, only the title is changed.
  6. Some games are usually bootleg games that are based on movies, this is more common in mobile games nowadays.
  7. Not only movies, though. There are even games that capitalise on real life brands (especially car brands like Lamborghini in the case of racing games), popular cities around the world, or even more recently, Internet memes and trends.
  8. A lot of them would create false advertisements, by using fake screenshots instead of the actual gameplay, this is more common in mobile games and Steam, though.
  9. Sometimes, these games are overpriced, despite costing budget price or not for small and/or repetitive actual content.
  10. Because of the sheer amount of shovelware games the developers would release, they overshadow decent games and fill a console with their shovelware, like what happened with the Nintendo Wii, Atari 2600, and Steam.
  11. It is one of the factors that led to North American video game crash. With no quality control at all, many companies tried to take advantage of the video game craze (even the Kool-Aid company made a game). Many of these games were abysmal in quality causing gamers to lose faith in the industry.
  12. Sometimes the game discs would even be poorly made that they're either released unplayable or stop working easily. Such as Phoenix Games' discs as they would get hot easily and the console making very loud noises when reading the discs. Once the discs become hot, they will be warped and comes out as unusable permanently.
  13. Almost always, shovelware developers will consider criticism as "harassment", and some would even go so far as to file actual lawsuits against critics just because they gave their games negative reviews. Some of them even release their games through Early Access to avoid criticism.
  14. Sometimes, these games are just unfinished, steal assets from other games and companies without permission or even asset flips.
  15. Many of them tend to be licensed games that rely purely on being based on popular franchises so parents who don't know any better will buy them for their kids.
  16. Terrible graphics such as washed out colors, and look like they came from a previous generation.
  17. Most developers make tons of them to make a quick buck.
    • And to add insult to injury, this actually leads to many problems as mentioned in some of the reasons above when they rush games to meet their deadline.
  18. A lot of times, they're only made to cash in on the popularity of a particular intellectual property, even intellectual properties that don't aren't successful or have mixed-to-negative reception in their media of origin.
  19. Some shovelwares are simply games that were pirated from a legit developer, and cloned thousand of times, for example using decompiler (APK Tool is infamous for Android) or resource editors it is possible to take the code of somebody else, change the author and some assets, and publish the game to the store. However, they use the tactic of hit and run and mostly hit or miss.
  20. Some shovelware developers are depending on microtransactions a lot and some examples of it are straight up abysmal. For example, in a RADAL video, an Indian GTA ripoff wants 115 euros (139.52 USD) to "unlock all levels and guns". For whose do not use "traditional" microtransactions, there are Steam trading cards so developers are inclined to make games to farm "Steam Trading Cards" in overall.

How to avoid shovelware games

  • Always check out reliable game reviews. If a game has poor reviews, or is a port of a mobile game (though this doesn't necessarily mean that game is bad, but be careful), avoid buying it at all costs. This is good for parents, as it would prevent them from buying a bad game for their children and wasting their money. Avoid most game journalists sites though, because most are heavily corrupt.
  • If you’re not a parent, but see one buying a game that you know is bad, the recommended method is to persuade them not buy the game and instead buy a better or average quality game.
  • Don’t always trust false advertising. Games like Guns of Glory, Lords Mobile and other ones such as most mobile game developers use that trick to make people download it. If you have young kids, be extra careful, as they can also buy special currency with your money without your acknowledge and permission.
  • Many of these games can be found in stores that don't really cater to video games like Fleet Farm. While you can sometimes find a decent game, such an event is very rare so it's best to avoid these spots at all costs. Wire mesh discount bins in supermarkets are a particularly common place to find shovelware, as the supermarket usually gets these games cheap as distressed inventory from local game stores.
    • On digital platforms, if the game has a low price around $4 or tends to receive very high discounts, it's likely shovelware.

Videos

Extra Credit's documentary

Scott The Woz's Shovelware Variety Hour series

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