If you live outside of Europe you most likely won’t have heard of Phoenix Games. For those that do, you’re likely familiar with at least some of their “games” (I use that term loosely).
Who Were Phoenix Games?
Phoenix Games, founded in 2003, were a European budget games publisher. Whilst active, they unleashed a torrent of video games mostly on the Sony PS1 and PS2. They did, however, manage to slip a few games into the PSP, DS, Wii and PC library. They were notorious for rushing their releases, which were often unpolished, unreliable & uninspired.
The Phoenix Games Philosophy
Phoenix Games’ business model was based entirely around throwing out game after game in an attempt to make one stick. In their own words, they were a “small elite team of 6 specializing in the licensing, marketing and publishing of value-priced games”. They cut back on labour costs by outsourcing their development work (likely to underpaid newbies) and cheaped out on materials.
The average PS1 release by Phoenix Games cost £6.99 ($9.23). Meanwhile, a PS2 release would cost from £7.99 ($10.55) to £12.99 ($17.15). Instead of putting their games into the hands of reputable game retailers, Phoenix hatched an alternative plan.
Their games were put on the shelves of convenience stores, garages, newsagents and more. This way you could pick up a new game to play whilst buying a sandwich or filling up your car. Parents with little knowledge or interest in video games were likely Phoenix Games’ best customers.
How Did Phoenix Games Make Sales?
Many of the Phoenix Games releases were aimed at children and played heavily off stories popularised by the likes of Disney. “Played off” may be too generous of a term. They completely ripped off Disney’s intellectual property on multiple occasions. Craftily constructed titles and suggestive artwork were their forte.
- Snow White became Snow White and the 7 Clever Boys.
- The Lion King became Son of the Lion King.
- Mulan became Mighty Mulan.
- 101 Dalmatians became Dalmatians 2,3 & 4.
- Hercules became Herkules.
- Pinocchio became Adventures of Pinocchio.
- Peter Pan became Peter Pan’s Playground.
You get the picture. By throwing in the occasional noun or mixing up a letter, Phoenix Games somehow sidestepped copyright infringement. It didn’t stop at names either, does any of that artwork look familiar to you?
You’ve got to have guts to rip off Disney. It’s basically an unwritten rule that you don’t it. Unless you want their lawyers taking said guts and making you pay for the privilege. Somehow though, Phoenix Games dodged the unyielding might of Disney’s legal team.
Rare Games Published by Phoenix Games
Many of Phoenix Games releases had low print runs (to once again cut back on upfront costs). This has led some games to be labelled as rare and desirable. Games that once cost as little as £6.99 can be worth a small fortune today. Case in point, Cindy’s Fashion World (Oh yeah, they pillaged poor Sindy too).
Cindy’s Fashion World, a presumably terrible, copyright infringing PS1 game made for little girls, is known to sell for an insane amount. It doesn’t come up often, but when it does, some collectors are willing to pay through their teeth to own it. Cindy’s Caribbean Holiday, although the lesser in rarity of the two games also fetches a hefty sum.
There’re plenty more games like this as well, all selling for way more than you’d ever have expected. Some of these games are very much desirable to a select few PlayStation collectors. They’re willing to throw their wallet at you just to own them. It’s not because they enjoy the games (unless you’re playing ironically), it’s usually just to complete a set.
What Ever Happened to Phoenix Games?
Phoenix Games are no more. That business model could only have ever lasted so long. They had a good run mind you, making releases even up until the Nintendo Wii. Untrue to their name, they likely won’t rise again. Their memory, however, will live on. A memory of a notorious peddler of half-arsed games which just so happen to be rare now.