Mortal Kombat maker is dazed, but not a fatality yet

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Chicago-based video game maker Midway Games filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today, a victim of our crumbling economy and, worse, a lack of anything new worth playing.

Midway made its bones — more often than not ripped out of its characters — with the ultra-violent martial arts/magic.sci-fi game Mortal Kombat, a mainstay in any decent college student’s video game collection since the early ’90s.

And when I say ultraviolent, I mean that in the best possible gaming way. Almost entirely because of MK’s elaborate kill sequences at the end of fights, we saw the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board to grade out video game violence and keep the kiddies safe from gore.

Midway also markets a series of sports-related titles — notably TNA Impact and Blitz the League — that stray from the Madden formula of on-field action into wrestling and NFL players bar fighting with Midway’s signature blood-and-guts style.

So why is Midway reeling in a world obsessed with gaming in all its forms, to the tune of somewhere near $20 billion in PROFITS in 2008? Simple answer is that they just don’t have very good games and have lived off their early Mortal Kombat success too long. Today’s gamers demand not only a realistic experience, but constant innovation. Midway’s games aren’t boring, but they are stale. And stale in the gaming world is enough to rip your spine out, hit you with a napalm ball or dice you into tar tar in a death scene befitting any MK best-of fatalities clip.

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