In Summer 2019, there was one game nearly everyone I saw was talking about. No, it isn’t the new version of all-time classic The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. (Although, it did have its 15 minutes.) It isn’t Borderlands 3 either, but it is doing well enough with its fanbase. No, there is one game that is everywhere in the memes, in the gags, and in the overall “hey this game is cool” discourse. I’ll give you one hint, reader, in one word. That word is... “honk.” Yeah, the game of the summer may very well be Untitled Goose Game when we look back at 2019.
For an example of just how captivating Untitled Goose Game is, look no further than this very article as evidence. Here at Cheat Code Central, we usually stick to “blockbuster” coverage, unless something on the margins is truly a hot topic out in the gamersphere. Yet here I am, writing a piece about a $15 indie game about a goose. Granted, this isn’t just any goose. This goose in particular is a being of pure, feathery malice; it’s the sort of malevolence only a being that is the extremely specific combination of “evil” and “goose” could be capable of. And all of that sinister power gets to be in the hands of the player.
Untitled Goose Game was practically a meme before it even had its absence of a title. Revealed out of nowhere by developer House House at GDC 2018, everyone immediately fell in love with the game’s inherent comedy as the goose harassed a poor farmer and went on to terrorize more hapless humans. Then it showed up as a Nintendo Switch game, and that’s just an undeniably powerful combination. Once it finally did release in September, 2019 Untitled Goose Game immediately shot up the charts. If you took a look at the Nintendo eShop’s sales chart, this quirky little slice of digital nonsense trumped the freakin’ Zelda game. Now that’s wild.
Not only is it wild, it also shows us a prime example of what’s wrong with video games right now, and by that I mean specifically the AAA side of things. Go on social media or browse your favorite gaming content destination, and you’ll eventually run into arguments that claim video games should cost well over $60. The cost hasn’t gone up to match inflation, they say, let alone the rising cost of games that already take millions of dollars to produce. This is why we see so many ridiculous attempts at revenue streams, from loot boxes to the latest NBA 2K game literally having a slot machine. Yet, here we were with an inexpensive, cheap goose game not only sitting atop sales charts, but being the talk of the town for a long time.
Is the answer to AAA gaming’s growing instability really the burden of the players, the people shelling out their cash for games? Can we not turn the narrative around a little and admit that maybe, just maybe, AAA game publishers aren’t doing themselves any favors? Sure, we all love awesome visual fidelity, but do games really need to cost as much as they do? Does every AAA game need to be a live service, a giant open world, and a massive undertaking that requires ludicrously complex engines and even more millions in marketing dollars just to run a desperate bid to break even?
Speaking of millions, here’s the million dollar question: do the executives running these companies really need as much money as they’re awarding themselves every year? A know a game that shows us success doesn’t require excess. It's an Untitled Goose Game.