may have just sealed its fate.
, the company's biggest release of the year, debuted Wednesday to lackluster reviews, dashing any remaining investor hope that Midway might halt its descent into obscurity.
Based on 11 reviews from gaming magazines and Web sites, the
Xbox 360 gathered an average score of 76 out of 100.
The score means Midway could have trouble meeting sales expectations of 1.5 million to 2 million for the game -- especially during a crowded holiday season for which the lineup includes heavily anticipated titles such as
Call of Duty 4
has been panned for its weak multiplayer option, lack of pacing and simplistic game play. The game, created in collaboration with Hollywood director John Woo, has been billed as the sequel to Woo's 1992 Chinese action flick
starring actor Chow Yun-Fat.
Critics seemed to appreciate the collaboration but have busted the game for its lack of complexity and ability to hold players' attention.
"While the story and writing are reasonably solid, they're not nearly riveting enough to outweigh the too-simple, occasionally glitchy nature of the fundamental game," says video games site
in its review.
Brian Sozzi, an analyst with independent research firm Wall Street Strategies, agrees the game has fallen short of expectations. "The game is not as in-depth as I had hoped," says Sozzi. "It's a short six- to seven-hour game, and it appears to get stale after a while."
"I just don't think it will move the needle for Midway, which is unfortunate," he says.
Midway's shares were off 1.4%, or 7 cents, to $5.13 Friday. The stock is down 4% this week. The company's largest shareholder is
Chairman Sumner Redstone who holds an 87.5% stake -- individually and through Viacom parent National Amusements.
Midway had been counting on
in a big way.
The Chicago, Ill.-based company has talked up the game during its quarterly earnings conference calls for the last three quarters. It has had a larger staff working on
than on any other title.
, which released on PCs, Xbox 360 and
PlayStation 3, was also supposed to be a showcase of Midway's prowess when it came to developing games for the newest console systems.
stumble, the outlook for investors could turn bleak. Poor game sales could kill hopes that the company may turn the title into a franchise. Midway still has its long-running
Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expect Midway to post a loss of 22 cents a share in the third, or coming, quarter on revenue of $51.7 million. For the fourth quarter, consensus is earnings of 14 cents on revenue of $123.4 million.
Midway's next original release is a first-person shooter game called
Blacksite: Area 51
. Sozzi fears that game could do worse than
. "The previews for
Blacksite: Area 51
are not encouraging," he says.
"The graphics aren't stellar, the AI is lacking and your main weapon works like every other gun from every other FPS
first-person shooter you've ever played," said gaming blog
last week. The blog, however, did credit the game with being "fun as hell" and not a "cookie-cutter" title.
Fun alone won't cut it for Midway.