There’s a reason why we don’t have Gaelic football games like we have NBA or FIFA ones yearly; these two GAA-themed video games were, to say the least, not very good at all.
2005 gave us many great gaming milestones, such as the Xbox 360, the PSP, but I doubt any gamer would call Gaelic sports with ‘blocky’ graphics a renowned achievement for the gaming world. However, for Irish people, these two PS2 games were significant because they were the first of their kind and truly made Irish people feel included in the E-Sports scene.
The original, ‘Gaelic Games: Football’, was developed by Australian studio, IR Gurus, with the intent to encapsulate the magic of Irish sports. Irish players can live-out their Gaelic dreams, such as the highly unlikely outcome of County Armagh winning the All-Ireland final again.
While the idea was ambitious, the games were predictably quite unsuccessful outside of the Irish market, hence it was unlikely for them to develop a game up to the high standards of the modern games industry.
Back in 2005, the first game is said to have outsold multi-million dollar game franchises such as Call of Duty in Ireland, but stores were soon met with countless returns as players found it to be awful. It got so bad, according to an employee at one of these stores at the time, “they had to stop taking the games back.”
One thing that really frustrated players was the repetitive commentary by famed Irish GAA commentator, Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh. His two phrases, “great tackling” and “good strong tackling”, were so overused to the point where one would go mad hearing them every few seconds.
The game was largely ‘unplayable’ in that one could not defend at all, and it was nearly impossible to score as the controls were unbelievably wonky. The game would at least be bearable if the gameplay itself was half-decent.
The commercial and marketing director for the GAA then, Dermot Power, commented on why he believes the games were unsuccessful.
“The problem was the cost of [developing it from scratch] was horrific and the limited scale of the Irish market. Pooka Games were the first ones we talked to before we ever went abroad. When that fell through, we didn’t give up which tells you how long we were at it…
“We thought we would get a small Irish company to do it, but we realized very quickly that it wouldn’t be fair to saddle somebody with that knowing they were going to have financial problems with it.”
Since the Australian company took over development, the belief was that they could have made an AFL (Aussie Rules) game first, then continue to develop around that framework for the GAA since the two sporting traditions are nearly identical.
“I think we’re very conscious of seeing kids, your own kids and people like that, playing the FIFA games and obviously it was something we wanted to get GAA to do as well, if we could do it at all,” Power went on to say.