THE GAMES GATHERINGS

There have always been collector’s editions of books, records, tapes, and nowadays even of videos. The computer game industry has featured compilations from the very earliest days, but there have been a few recent developments in the compilation market, as GRAEME KIDD notes...

One way of picking up cheap copies of original games is to pop along to computer shows, such as the ZX Microfairs, which are invariably attended by companies offering all sorts of old and not-so-old games at discount prices. The Great Space Race, for instance, is no joke at £15-odd, but for a couple of pounds it makes a reasonable bargain, if only for the large box which is very handy for keeping bits of string, conkers and other oddments in.

Budget labels are on the increase — and another source of cheap games is becoming more widely available. Sometimes a firm like Mastertronic will give an ‘old’ game a new lease of life by re-releasing it at a knock-down price, but more often than not one of the cheapest ways to buy games or fill that gap in your software collection is to snap up a compilation tape. Compilations offer value for money, too — the price per game for titles on compilations ranges from around 33p a game in the case of Argus Press Software’s 30 Games to the more usual £2.50 per-game level.

CHARITABLE INTENT

Compilations of games put together with charitable intent, with software houses donating games and companies involved in duplicating, printing, distribution and sales giving their services or working at cost, have already raised considerable sums for worthy causes. Softaid, put together specially for the Ethiopian Famine appeal raised an awful lot of money for famine victims last year, becoming the biggest chart success in the history of computer gaming. This year, The Industry (with a capital I) has collected together ten games under the Off The Hook title, which sells for £6.99 with all profits going to the Prince’s Trust to alleviate the suffering caused by the illegal use of drugs. War on Want, the charity set up to combat world poverty, has also just released a fourteen game compilation tape available by mail order (see the advertisement that should appear in this issue). Spending a little money having fun and contributing to charity at the same time is no bad thing...

On the purely commercial front, some companies have decided to offer collections of their own games for sale. Hewsons, for instance put together a value pack last Christmas which was a compilation in all but name — a shrink wrapped set of original games in original packing. Such ‘collected works’ are really limited offers rather than compilations proper.

Mikro-Gen is planning to collect the Wally games together one day soon, perhaps putting them out back-to-back or including them with budget titles... the ranks of Wally fans will no doubt be swelling soon.

IS THE FORCE WITH YOU?

Melbourne House supplies Mugsy as a freebie with their new release, Mugsy’s Revenge, thus enhancing the monetary value of their product quite a bit. The same company has also entered into a co-operative venture with Firebird, Activision, and Beyond. This quartet of companies call themselves The Force for the purpose of compiling game albums, and so far The Force has issued Hotshots, which contains one hit game from each team member. Plans are apparently afoot to take the Christmas market by storm, with a collection of games the like of which no Spectrum Game Player has seen before. Mindshadow, Fighting Warrior, Gyron and Shadowfire plus Tuner for £9.99 on the first Hotshots tapes must represent good value for anyone who has only got a couple of those games already.

Th biggest bumper bag of goodies is currently on offer from Argus in the form of 30 Games, which as its title suggests, leads the field in terms of volume. Argus has access to a massive back catalogue of titles — software house buy-outs and licensing deals as well as in-house labels, including tape magazines, puts the Argus Press Software Group in a very good position to go for The Biggest Compilation record. As is so often happens in life, however, quantity is at the expense of quality in the case of 30 Games. A few moments spent on mental arithmetic produces an average price of 33p a game — so perhaps one shouldn’t really expect too much of the original titles. There are a few neat games hidden in the jungle, and half the fun of buying 30 Games for £9.95 probably lies in loading them all, one after another, and working out which ones to load again!

CHRISSY COMPILATION

Although They Sold A Million is a rather ambitious claim to make in the title of a compilation — unless it contains an awful lot of very good games. They Sold A Metaphorical Million doesn’t have quite the same ring, as Ocean/US Gold and The Hit Squad no doubt realised when they launched their first TSAM collection in time for Christmas at £9.95. Beach Head I, Jet Set Willy, Daley Thompson’s Decathlon and Sabrewulf got the title off the ground, and more recently TSAM II appeared, giving a new lease of life to Bruce Lee, Match Point, Knight Lore, and the classic Match Day.

Virgin is yet another company well into compilations — WOW! Games One and Two have appeared so far, at the slightly lower price point of £8.95, with the first collection featuring half a dozen games (average unit price £1.49) and WOW! II slimmed down a little to the five games level (£1.79 a game to save you working it out). Respectable games all, although WOW II probably presents slightly better value in that the quality of the games is a little better as compared with its predecessor. (That old argument about the Two Q’s crops up again!)

Ian Stewart, the Main Man at Gremlin Graphics hit upon the wizard wheeze of going for games to put on a compilation on the basis of reviews — CRASH Reviews, naturally for Spectrum software — and the first CRASH Smash collection has already been let out of the Gremlin stable to zoom up the charts. Yet another £9.95 collection, this one features Dun Darach, Alien 8, Night Gunner and Spy Hunter. A neat selection of top rate games that is spread across a range of gameplaying interests. Mr S from Gremlin has plans for a ‘top notch’ compilation in time for Christmas — this time featuring at least one Gremlin Graphics game.

THE MARKETING APPROACH

Marketing companies have seen the possibilities of entering the software world without the pain and aggravation of actually writing games. Beau Jolly has assembled several compilations for the Spectrum so far: a £5.99 Value Pack featuring old Imagine (of Wacky Waiters fame) product; the £9.95 Mega Hits collection; 6 Computer Games for £6.95 and 10 Computer Games for £9.95. With the possible exception of the value pack, some quite respectable titles can be had from Beau-Jolly at a very fair price, although their £19.95 mega-compilation didn’t do a storm by all accounts. More compilations are on the way from the Beau-Jolly team — who learnt their trade in the record industry. Remember K-Tel?

So far there have been few “theme” compilations, concentrating on the works of one programmer or on one kind of game. Global’s Fourmost Adventures reviewed by Derek a little while ago sprang quickly to mind, but resident strategist Sean Masterson was at a loss to name a Strategy compilation... perhaps there’s still a niche or two left unexploited in the compilation market after after all!

The last word in compilations must surely go to Firebird who had a bit of fun with a small collection of slightly dire games that had been submitted for consideration to the Silver Range. Don’t Buy This, paradoxically, was sold. But with a strong disclaimer and a very tongue-in-cheek inlay blurb...