Vivendi Games was an American video game publisher and holding company based in Los Angeles, California. It was founded in 1996 in Torrance, California as CUC Software, the publishing subsidiary of CUC International, after the latter acquired video game companies Davidson & Associates and Sierra On-Line. Between 1997 and 2001, the company switched parents and names multiple times before ending up organized under Vivendi Universal (later renamed Vivendi). On July 10, 2008, Vivendi Games merged with Activision to create Activision Blizzard.
Why They Sucked
NOTE: The article is based on both Vivendi Games, as well as its division Universal Interactive before becoming a label.
- They have been known to treat developers like dirt when it comes to game development since they forced them to release a game in a short amount of time, for example, they forced Naughty Dog to make Warped in 11 months, and Naughty Dog's headquarters faced some problems during development: The air conditioning broke on a hot Californian summer, however, Universal didn’t pay off the conditioning and still wanted Naughty Dog to finish the game, They also did this to Traveller's Tales with Wrath of Cortex by making them restart development from the original GDD titled Crash Bandicoot Worlds by Mark Cerny after they sent an animation demo to Universal, and finish the game in around 10-12 months.
- They had lack of skills as a publisher since they often meddled with developers on how they wanted the games to be, such as refusing to accept the name Crash Bandicoot and wanted Naughty Dog to stick with Willie the Wombat, (Universal also thought of other names for Crash such as Wozzle the Wombat, Wez the Wombat, Ozzie the Otzel and Wizzie the Wombat), to which Naughty Dog threatened to drop the contract until Universal decide to go with the name Crash Bandicoot.
- They managed to ruin Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly by forcing them to rush the game and release it for a Christmas 2002 deadline, and make it play like the PS1 trilogy, however, they sent out two Game Design Documents to Check Six, and Check Six’s ideas often clashed with Universal’s ideas on the games, making the game have disjointed gameplay, and also caused the game to have nine levels, a terrible framerate, only one boss fight, 90 dragonflies, terrible graphics, etc.
- They were egotistical over the Crash PS1 trilogy, as most of the games (mostly the GBA games) were basically the same as the original trilogy: they had remixes of Warped themes, with most levels of The Huge Adventure having level themes similar to Crash 2/3.
- They decided to redesign Crash and Spyro to cash in on the “character redesign” trend in the late 2000s, which were met with mixed reviews from fans of the franchises, but mostly on the negative side, mostly due to the fact that the character designs were a bit uncanny to their original designs, and that the characters got flanderized in those games.
- They also redesigned Coco into a teenager starting in Crash Nitro Kart, while somewhat understandable since Universal possibly wanted marketing appeal for their female bandicoots, as Tawna was too inappropriately designed, and that Coco was originally supposed to be a teenager as seen in early sketches drawn by Charles Zembillas when Cortex Strikes Back was in development, it's still somewhat random and creepy, especially that Coco being the little sister of Crash who somehow remains the same age unlike her.
- They never gave Crash (Minus N.Sane Trilogy) and Spyro a PC port, which is odd considering other Universal games had PC ports already, and even Sonic and Mario were getting PC ports/games, even Sonic CD had a PC port during the time where Sega was first-party, so there’s no excuse.
- However, there was a supposed PC port of Enter the Dragonfly, but that was unfortunately canceled, along with an Xbox (console) version of that game.
- During the time Vivendi bought their parent company, just like Universal Studios, Vivendi forced them to milk Crash and Spyro, not caring about the quality of the games, which caused them to have some of the worst games in the franchises, such as Crash Nitro Kart, Crash Boom Bang!, Crash: Mind over Mutant, Crash of the Titans, Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly, Spyro: Shadow Legacy, Crash Bandicoot Purple: Ripto's Rampage and Spyro Orange: The Cortex Conspiracy, etc.
- Around their final years as Vivendi Games, they decided to make loads of mobile games of Crash Bandicoot, and this was a pretty bad move since generally, mobile games are inferior to console/PC games, and mobile phones weren’t that experienced as they are today.
- Much like other companies ignoring the Nintendo Switch, it seems that they ignored the Nintendo 64 out of spite, as there were no Universal titles released on that console, while it's understandable that this can be due to the Nintendo 64 being more difficult to program for than the PlayStation due to it using cartridges instead of discs, there's still no excuse to have no games released for the system.
- They also ignored the Dreamcast, since there was also only 1 game released for the system, which was The Grinch.
- Heck, they even ignored the PlayStation 3 too, since they released only a few games on that system, and didn't even release a single Crash game on it, which could be confusing for long time fans since the franchise originated from the PlayStation line-up of consoles, so seeing a Crash game not on a new Sony console is a bit weird, and furthermore, the Titans duology was instead released on the PlayStation 2 and never got ported over to it's successor at all, which is a massive waste of potential to not port them on that console.
- Sometimes, they had the tendency to cancel games for various or unknown reasons even if they're still in development, sometimes because they want developers to finish a game in a short period of time, which is the biggest sign of rushing development/crunch time, the game that we’re canceled include:
- Savage Entertainment, which they've canceled Jurassic Park: Survival due to payment conflicts with Vivendi Universal along with their dissatisfaction with the progress of the game, which was intended to be released in November 2001.
- Genki's The Fast and the Furious tie-in video game was also canceled for unknown reasons, which was intended to be released in November 2003.
- They changed graphics in Fight Club to make less from the film's source material (the unnamed narrator and Tyler Durden were meant to resemble Edward Norton and Brad Pitt respectively).
- They did publish some great games such as the original Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon trilogies, which are the best games in the franchise, along with The Cat in the Hat (based on the infamous 2003 film of the same name) Van Helsing (based on the infamous 2004 film of the same name), The Simpsons: Hit & Run and The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (the latter was released in the US by Sierra Entertainment).
- They helped both Naughty Dog and Insomniac Games become big and trustworthy game developers, and they would later create many franchises, such as: Ratchet & Clank, Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, Uncharted, The Last of Us and Marvel's Spider-Man, along with its standalone title, Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
- During the end credits for Year of the Dragon, it says “We hope you have enjoyed the Spyro Trilogy!, We have had four great, fun, sleepless years creating it”. Which is referring to Universal’s infamous crunch time and their horrible treatment to developers.
- Vivendi Universal used to distribute (not own) the catalogues of several publishers, including Empire Interactive, Interplay Entertainment (2001), Konami (PC games; 2004), NovaLogic, Simon & Schuster Interactive (2002), and Valve (until 2005 through Sierra, after which Valve became self-distributed).