An annual Golden Tee is as inevitable as the rising and setting of the sun. And while the regularity of the series is not regarded with contempt like, say, 2K Sports and EA Sports releases, I still see it as somewhat of a “crutch” for developer Incredible Technologies.
Yes, the series is wildly popular. Yes, each installment of the current “LIVE” series is full of gameplay enhancements, additional features, and healthy doses of new content. But have you wondered what would happen if one day Incredible Technologies said, “Why don’t we create something really zany?”
That’s a question I mull over often. Not because I dislike Golden Tee or want to shame Incredible Technologies—I love the formula and applaud the company’s devotion to its community—but instead because I see vast, untapped potential.
If Golden Tee is this awesome, who’s to say I.T. can’t do more?
Golden Tee Golf started all the way back in 1989, but series as we know it today truly kicked off with Golden Tee LIVE in 2005. Since then, the franchise has been renowned for its deeply rooted online connectivity and its continued relevance as an esport.
There’s a lot I love about Golden Tee. As one of the few remaining coin-op sports titles, the base gameplay is highly refined. The sheer level of player customization is staggering. The year-round events are engaging. And as I’ve mentioned, Incredible Technologies’ care for the competitive scene is rivaled only by Play Mechanix with Big Buck Hunter.
I.T. does so many things perfectly with Golden Tee Golf that few other developers are willing to even attempt with their own titles. Do the latest Raw Thrills games feature deep Internet-enabled features? Are Japanese developers willing to bring their robust online infrastructures to the West?
Of course not. But I.T. and GT are different.
The only problem with good ol’ Golden Tee is that…well, it’s good ol’ Golden Tee. For every bold new feature, there are graphics that are aging poorly with each passing year. For every enthralling tournament, there’s the realization that Incredible Technologies doesn’t do much else besides make Golden Tee.
Granted, that preceding statement would deny the existence of I.T.’s casino “gaming” division. So to be more specific, they aren’t making too many other video games.
In recent memory, only other I.T. video games we have can honestly be described as companion pieces to Golden Tee. Silver Strike Bowling and PowerPutt Golf saw their last LIVE entries in 2013. Both series are built on the same trackball foundation as their 30-year-old contemporary.
Is it necessarily a bad thing that I.T. has found their niche and are exploiting it to its fullest potential? No, it isn't. But let’s consider the past.
Disregarding their staple series, it’s clear that Incredible Technologies was once much more varied in their output. Peggle, Rim Rockin’ Basketball, Hard Yardage, Driver’s Edge, Street Fighter: The Movie (oops), Ninja Clowns, BloodStorm, and Time Killers—especially the last three—are much different than anything we’d see from I.T. now.
Were most of those games successful? Not super likely. Were most of those games any good? Eh…that’s debatable. Regardless, the fact of the matter is that this company more or less dropped the diversity of their lineup shortly after their golden goose exploded.
A few major exceptions contest this supposed rule. In the early 2000s, I.T. published the first four Big Buck Hunter titles before the series went to Raw Thrills. Then there are scattered outliers such as Carnival King and Target Toss Pro.
I also can’t ignore I.T.’s recent deal with indie developer Glitchbit to publish Retro Raccoons—a partnership practically made in heaven. Even so, I’d argue that fresh the studio’s fresh IPs are far outnumbered by the “king of the green”.
The reason I bring all this is up is because I want so dearly to see more from Incredible Technologies. I want the manufacturer that pumps out Golden Tee LIVE each September to hit the drawing board and come out with something wildly unexpected. I want them to bring their special brand of online connectivity, community-building, and esports savvy to other genres.
Let’s play the “What If” game. What if Incredible Technologies developed a racing game filled with oodles of vehicle customization options? With a wide array of tracks? With timed updates throughout the year? With an online save system for you to carry your profile over to any machine in the country? With a yearly tournament boasting over $100,000 in cash prizes?
This “racing game” in question is obviously nothing but a wild hypothetical, but the components I listed—customization, content, timed updates, online saves, and tournaments—can be found in Golden Tee.
In short, I want the innovations of the biggest bar game in the country to expand beyond those bounds.
What I’ve written today is not a hit piece. Even as someone who can’t stand real-life sports, I get a hearty kick out of playing Golden Tee every time I find it. I write this article instead out of passion. Passion for arcades, passion for gaming, and passion for the quirkier side of Incredible Technologies.
Is game design easy? No. Do I honestly believe my one article will change the development habits of the company? Heck, no. But I do believe in my writing, and I hope to see change. Sometimes, it’s worth putting words out there so that someone—anyone—will know what’s you’re thinking.
I know what Incredible Technologies does well. I appreciate their innovations. All I want is to see that genius channeled into something unique.
And please goodness, fewer casino machines.
Ninja Clowns 2 when?