Update 1/17/2018: This is an older article that I wrote before The House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn was announced. If you'd like to read actual news about the REAL House of the Dead 5, click here. You could still read this article for fun, I guess. It's really up to you.
Ah, The House of the Dead. If you’ve ever played an iconic rail shooter, there’s a gosh darned good chance that it was a game from this series. Along with Time Crisis and CarnEvil, The House of the Dead is one of the few arcade games that can lay claim to having a strong online following—something that’s not too typical in the arcade scene. (And honestly, who can blame gamers for not forming fandoms around arcade games? Disregarding the fact that fandoms ruin everything, who plays arcade games for the story? It just doesn’t work.)
With that being said, I think a lot of us are thirsting for more right now. It’s been 11 whole years since the last THOTD game (that’s almost seven-tenths of my entire lifetime!), and younger players like me are simply dying to experience the series on, say, the Dave and Buster’s game floor. That’s why, on my infinitesimally small soapbox, I’m calling for Sega to bring back The House of the Dead. They brought back Daytona earlier this year, so who’s to say it isn’t time for the return of some zombie killing action? Besides, Sega Amusements needs to clear its reputation. Their releases have been anything but solid lately.
But this is more than me as a selfish fan begging for a new game—this is me requesting what I see as a natural next move for Sega. In my opinion, the market has never been more aptly prepared for a long-time zombie shooter to return. And in typical Wilcox Arcade fashion, I’m gonna waste a bunch of time explaining why The House of the Dead should make a valiant return, be it as a sequel or a remake. (I’m looking at you, Daytona “3”.)
Oh, and just in case you all didn't notice, this article totally fills my "spooky Halloween article quota" for the month. And you thought I couldn't do it. Ha! I laugh at thee heartily.
I. Zombies are totally in right now.
Sega, not to be facetious (because I really think you’re great), but when your two biggest competitors have both released hugely successful zombie/horror-themed games within the past 7 years, I think it’s absolutely time for your flagship zombie shooter to make a comeback. And after reading that over, I realize that it totally does sound facetious, so let’s back that bold statement up with some facts.
Back in 2012, Namco released Dark Escape 4D, one of the most technologically advanced arcade games to date. So, how’s it doing? Spectacularly well. Go to any given Dave and Buster’s with a Dark Escape 4D cab and gaze in bemusement at the line of players waiting to climb in and kill the undead. It’s truly something else, people.
And much more recently, we’ve seen a very huge zombie shooter release from none other than Raw Thrills (that company that just happens to dominate arcades): The Walking Dead. Because it’s, you know, Raw Thrills, and because it’s a fantastic zombie shooter, The Walking Dead has been doing incredibly well, and you can bet your beard that, yes, the lines are just as intense surrounding this game as they are for Dark Escape 4D.
And while we’re at it, it’s not just in arcades that zombies are huge! That’s why The Walking Dead comic series and television series are doing as well as they are. Heck, that’s why there’s a gosh darned Walking Dead arcade game, for crying out loud!
Sega, take note: You are one of the big three arcade developers right now, and the other two have released zombie shooters that rake in earnings by the truckload. If now isn’t the right time for the return of The House of the Dead, I don’t know what is.
II. Nostalgia is all the rage right now.
And that’s a fact. And not just in the arcade industry—nostalgia is a gigantic, disgusting beast in EVERY industry. Just look at cinema right now: Everything is based on audience’s attachment to longstanding brands and intellectual properties. Even television is starting to get reboot-happy. Is it a little unfortunate that the entertainment industry looks like this right now? Oh, it sure is. However, there’s no reason that we as consumers can’t capitalize on that by demanding a new House of the Dead game while the market is so ripe.
Of course, Sega already knows that this is the case. Heck, every arcade developer knows that this is the case. Sega brought back Daytona; Raw Thrills brought back Cruis’n; Namco brought back Time Crisis. It’s nostalgia heaven in the modern arcade industry. Because of that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sega already has The House of the Dead 5 in the pipeline nearing release, because it’s a darn good time for a dormant arcade franchise to, well, return to arcades.
While we’re on this subject, I’d like to linger on Time Crisis 5. In my opinion, the Time Crisis series has always been a direct competitor to THoTD. Not because they’re entirely similar games, mind you, but because they have extremely similar release cycles, and they both seem to compete for the title of “best rail shooter series.” And like I said, Time Crisis 5 graced arcades two years ago after a ten-year hiatus—wouldn’t it be a fine time for its natural competitor to return as well?
But hey, that’s just me. If Sega agrees, they can take a look at TC5’s earnings and make a decision from there. The last time I checked, the earnings are pretty gosh darn good.
III. Violent arcade games have a place in the modern industry.
This may seem like a very odd point to make, but it’s true. While hyper-violence used to be the norm in arcades (cough, Mortal Kombat), this hasn’t really been the case in recent years. Considering that The House of the Dead series is fairly violent, it seems only natural that we should analyze if the industry can handle it.
You see, in the early 2000s (post 2001 market crash type-thing), arcades became extremely family-oriented. Chuck-E-Cheese’s and the like pretty much dominated location-wise. And that, for better or worse, affected developers’ output. Remember Target: Terror from Raw Thrills back in 2004? That game was ridiculously violent (my word, was it violent). So, what did Raw Thrills do, knowing all too well that the market might reject that kind of game? They made a “special PG-version” called Target: Force that replaced all blood with paint splatters and eliminated all gore.
And flash back once again to 2003, when The House of the Dead III was released. That was arguably the most violent game in the franchise, right? So, what happened next? In 2006, The House of the Dead 4 was released and had absolutely no blood or gore whatsoever. That’s right—the game was completely scrubbed. It’s M-rating on the home console release baffles me to no end.
I tell you all this to make a point that, yes, The House of the Dead 5 might not have worked a few years ago. But now, things are changing. Violent games are making a comeback and proving that the industry can handle a little blood and gore. Prime examples of this include none other than, once again, Dark Escape 4D and The Walking Dead. Those games, despite all blood and gore, have done incredibly well for themselves. Sega, it is a fine time to bring back one of your most violent series. In fact, there may be no better time!
I’d like to say that I’ve proven without a shadow of a doubt that The House of the Dead can make a valiant return in today’s arcades, but of course, I’m not Sega. Heck, I’m not even an arcade operator. What I am, however, is a player, and sometimes, I think we players have some of the best suggestions for developers. I mean, wouldn’t you all like to see THoTD 5? I’m sure you would. We’d all drop quarters in that machine in a gosh danged heartbeat.
My only concern lies with WHO would be developing THoTD 5, assuming this actually came to fruition. Unfortunately, Sega AM2 as we knew it is kind of…gone. And even more unfortunate is the fact that their “successor” of sorts is Sega Amusements, a London studio that doesn’t really have a good reputation. In all honesty, the games to their name aren’t too great. (More on that on Thursday.)
But hey, only time will tell. For now, I’ll keep pleading for The House of the Dead 5, because that’s the title of this article.
Keep it real, ya sweaty nerds.