Last holiday, Microsoft had two big first-party titles to promote: Gears of War and Viva Pinata. While one went on to sell millions of copies, the other has been all but forgotten by the mainstream. Viva Pinata wasacute animal raising simulation that was covered with style, color, and personality, yet went unnoticed or was written off as a trivial family title.
Looking back, though,this isn't a surprise. Even the developers themselvesreflected on just how little marketing there was for the unique Pinata adventure. Gamasutra caught up with Rare employees James Thomas and Justin Cook to chat about the game's poor sales as a result of a lack of advertising. You may recall the compelling "Mad World" Gears of War commercials, but few will recall the equally appealing Viva Pinata "New Pants" ones (which apparently aired only in Canada and only I apparently knew about). Justin Cook explains the frustrations in the interview:
Most interestingly I think from our point of view, it was interesting to see how the marketing budget was split last Christmas, because obviously everyone knew that Microsoft were publishing Gears of War and Viva Piñata. Yet, so much of the money went towards Gears of War, which is going to sell millions anyway […]. I think we got left in the wake somewhat.
The entire interview reveals more about the project, but it's disheartening to think that Microsoft was consciously ignoring the unique and charming Viva Pinata, as it was one of the more compelling Rare products in quite some time. I seem to recall an even lesser game getting more press. Let's hope the second chance for the franchise gets a little more recognition.