Rugby sims have always been underrepresented in the computer gaming market. Football sims have dominated Europe, while in the USA its American Football that has dominated. It doesn’t help that the rules of rugby are awkward to translate fluently to a computer whilst retaining the fast pace of the game.
Its even worse for the C64, a search of the GB64 database reveals a mere four results under ‘rugby’ out of over 18,000 entries, one of which is a management game. Compare this to World of Spectrum where from over 6,000 games around ten or so appear.
As such the possible appearance of another Rugby sim becomes quite important. The C64 has an abundance of platform games, action games and so on, but if a new Rugby game were discovered, it would increase the genre by over 20% (Nice use of statistics, eh?).
In International Rugby, a game I spent many hours playing on the Spectrum, the aim is to win the Grand Slam playing as one of the ‘Five Nations’, that is England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales or France. A major benefit is the two-player option, which I played with my brother on for many hours. Admittedly one of the easiest ways to score a try (which is the equivalent of a ‘goal’ for you soccer-heads or ‘touchdown’ for any American Football fans!) is simply to run with the ball and dodge your opponents, but it still provided hours of fun and taking kicks was always a good test of skill.
The only evidence we have for a C64 version of International Rugby, which was released on the Spectrum and later on the C64, is an advert, for the Spectrum version, that states that the C64 and Amstrad version were ‘soon to be released’. The Amstrad CPC version saw the light of day, but the Commodore version didn’t.
The main question is why did the C64 version not get released? Possibly it was due to the market the computers held. The Spectrum dominated in Europe (with Amstrad lagging behind it) while the C64 held dominance in the USA, where rugby is even less popular than football (or ‘Soccer’ as our American audience will know it!). Maybe Artic, the company behind International Rugby, felt there wasn’t enough demand for a rugby game on the C64 and shelved the game. However, if that is the case, why develop it in the first place?
According to Lemon64, the first C64 Rugby game appeared in 1988, three years after International Rugby would have been released. Certainly there would have been little or no competition from similar games then, in fact, as possibly the only rugby game on the market it would have dominance for at least three years until Codemasters’ own rugby game came onto the market.
Interestingly the rights to the Spectrum version ended up with Blue Ribbon, who re-released the Spectrum game in 1987. What has this got to do with the C64 version you ask? Well, looking at their release list on the Spectrum, they went from being prolific in 1985 to barely releasing anything in 1986 and nothing in 1987. They released far more games on the Spectrum than the C64, where their only 1986 releases were text adventures. They folded, probably in 1986 after which Blue Ribbon bought the rights to International Rugby (although bizarrely a game called World Champion Icehockey was released on the C64 in 1991 by an ‘Artic Computing Ltd.’ – was it the same company trying to make a comeback?). Is it possible that by the time International Rugby was released, they were focusing more on the larger Spectrum market in an attempt to stave off bankruptcy, and as such pulled the release of the game at the last minute?
Ultimately the game never saw the light of day, though the release of the CPC version makes me believe that the C64 version was made, but was pulled for some reason and hasn’t been heard of since. This is a real shame, as the discovery of a new rugby game would genuinely give the C64 scene something extra, as opposed to another clichéd platform game no-one really needs.
Will we ever see this long lost game?…
Contributions: Andrew Fisher, Peter Weighill