It’s not often that we see a bad soccer game released, especially if they have the rights from FIFA and it’s for the World Cup. However way back in 1986 there was one in the U.K. known as World Cup Carnival that was so bad and had one of the most interesting development stories that I just had to share it.
The publisher was U.S. Gold who had published games such as Forbidden Forest, Aztec Challenge, and Zaxxon. The company was just snagged their first big license to an event with that just being the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. The company decided that the best thing to do is to work with another giant company in the U.K. known as Ocean as they not only had name recognition, but also had developed another soccer game known as Match Day. The idea was to have them create a game with the same game engine used in Match Day II and Ocean themselves even thought this would be a great idea.
Months passed and one day the two main executives for U.S. Gold reach out to Ocean to see how development of World Cup Carnival was going on. While most would expect nothing but great things, Ocean had actually done nothing. As in they never even started development on the game. On top of all of this, this all took place a mere 3 months before World Cup 86 was set to take place. U.S. Gold goes into full panic mode and sent out fillers to every developer in the country that they wanted to take a soccer game and make it become their World Cup game. The only company to respond to them was Arctic Computing who had been struggling by this point. Luckily they had a soccer game called World Cup Football that originally released in 1984. To their surprise U.S. Gold agreed and Arctic got to work right away.
The one thing that everyone noticed right away was that despite having penalties, a new splash screen, and a loading screen it was the exact same game as World Cup Football. While this game would have looked well in 1984, many improvements had been made in 2 years which made the game look obsolete. For comparison, it would be like EA releasing Madden 17 and it was actually just Madden 06 with an updated roster. U.S. Gold saw the finished product and they knew they had a stinker on their hands and knew the media was going to let them have it for making such a crappy game. To help make up for it, the company decided to include stickers, posters, and other little accessories thinking it would help.
Despite getting panned my critics, especially those who knew it was a rebranded World Cup Football, the game sold very well due to the license itself. It also helped that during the same month U.S. Gold has ported over Leaderboard to the Commodore 64 and had received rave reviews. U.S. Gold was so big that they could’ve handled taking a loss. Arctic Computing wasn’t so lucky. The money they gained from the deal with U.S. Gold saved their business, but since they didn’t have the rights to World Cup Football anymore and the owners to the rights demanded 25,000 pounds in compensation. With no other choice but to pay up, Arctic paid them and lost all the money they had made from the partnership with U.S. Gold and went bankrupt shortly after. Ironically enough Charles Cecil who was head of Arctic Computing later went on to work for U.S. Gold as their Head of Development and later founded Revolution Software which is most famous for their Broken Sword series.
Overall the story alone was worth getting a place in the Gaming Graveyard, add that with a horrible port on the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, and the Amstrad CPC and you have yourself a legacy of crap.