Bury the Shovelware: Clubhouse Games

For this edition of Bury the Shovelware, we're going to do something a little different. We're going to take a brief stroll through shovelware history and then see how its historical definition relates to one of the DS's most successful titles.

A Brief History of Shovelware

We've learned quite a bit on our journey to discover what exactly constitutes shovelware. From publisher responsibility to the affects of critical perception, we've covered much ground. One reoccurring issue that we see is the misconception about the word "shovelware" being synonymous with "bad game."

In the seemingly unending supply of phrases representing software distinctions, the term shovelware originally had a very specific meaning. It was used to refer to a large amount of games being ported to a single physical media source, usually with the advent of a new format which could hold many times the amount of its predecessors. Let's imagine a game that fits onto a single floppy disk. Since a single CD can hold several hundred times the amount of data that a single floppy disk can, some companies would attempt to make money by consolidating many of these games onto a CD. One might wonder how these collections came to be universally associated with crap games.

Shovelware vs. Crap

Let's talk a little math. Some of the traditional shovelware collections boast that they contain up to 1,000 games. Let's be conservative and say that a given collection contains 100 games. And since most of these collections are very cheap, let's give it another conservatively assumed price of 10 dollars. That's exactly one dime per game.

Now let's take an older and thus comparatively smaller game, in terms of data size. Super Mario Bros is a good start. That game was approximately 40.4 KB in size. That means that on a standard CD, which are usually 700 MB or 716,800 KB in size, we could fit approximately 17,742 copies of the NES classic. If it appeared on that 10 dollar collection we mentioned earlier, that would place the worth of Mario's first adventure at a little over a half of a penny. But as we all know from Nintendo's seemingly unending re-releases, the game is worth much more.

In other words, your 1,000 game collection will likely not contain any Super Mario Bros.-quality games. It gets to a point where a game's contribution to a larger number is more valuable than the game itself. And thus was the connection between crappy games and shovelware. In the words of a bunch of dead folks, "Quod erat demonstrandum."

Clubhouse Games

One of the DS's most popular and successful titles, Clubhouse Games is almost a required-own for most DS owners. It's not really successful amongst the hardcore crowd because of what it is, but rather lingers as a question of "why wouldn't you buy this game?" It's a simple collection, but it contains nearly every card game imaginable, as well as several other all-time standards. It's got chess, backgammon, pool, bowling, and even connect five (not to be confused with Connect Four).

But wait ... is this a collection of games which are easy to acquire? They have no copyright. Are they packed together in a large collection? There's 42 of them. Is the game cheap? It's only 20 bucks. Is this darling of the DS library nothing more than Nintendo-sponsored shovelware?

Our Deduction

On paper, it's somewhat hard to deny that Clubhouse Games is just shovelware in Nintendo clothing. And we should never grant a pass to an inferior product based simply on a name printed on its cover. But if one were to actually play Clubhouse Games, they'd find that the game is actually a quality effort. It makes great use of the touch screen, the inclusion of online play is an enormous benefit, and the presentation is perfectly adequate so as to not be distracting. The only real critique I came come up with is the music, which is usually extinguished by my turning the DS's volume all the way down in order to listen to my own musical preferences.

So at the end of the day, it comes down to quality. We can never turn a blind eye towards Nintendo when they hand us shovelware, as no one is immune to error. Similarly, we must also grant other lesser-known publishers and developers an unbiased perspective when examining their product. As ridiculous as it may sound, I'm always willing to give any game we've ever discussed the benefit of the doubt when playing (yes, even Homie Rollerz). Like any other form of prejudice, we must be careful not to prematurely label a game based on how it appears. This is not to say that we should pre-order copies of Imagine: Babies 2, rather that quality can come from anywhere and in any form. Clubhouse Games, despite fitting the definition of shovelware on paper, is far from a poor game.

In gaming, the term shovelware refers to any game in which time and effort were eschewed in favor of turning a quick profit. Bury the Shovelware takes a closer look at these titles, typically those that inhabit the lower end of metascores. It attempts to: 1) find out where and how the developer went wrong 2) identify common traits present in most shovelware 3) measure how long the game can be suffered.