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[Published at 2024.01.03.] [2037 words]

Magog Takeover:
A Confusing and Confused Narrative

OWI: So many cozy, comfy, wholesome projects coming this month. Immaculate holiday vibes incoming.

On the last day of November, Oddworld Inhabitants released a seemingly inconspicuous image featuring the NnT incarnation of Abe and promising “many cozy, comfy, wholesome projects” and “immaculate holiday vibes”. If one decides to not take the it at face value, the text reads a little ominously, which is entirely par for the series.

Magog Cartel: Dear “Inhabitants”. Please see our announcement.

And, indeed, on the very next day all of OWI’s social media pages suddenly “changed brand” so-to-speak. Instead of their usual logo, users were greeted by the much more menacing squid-head of the Magog Cartel, with site descriptions referring to them as “valued customers”.

Immediately speculation began that surely this is heralding something ‘big’. It’s been two years since Soulstorm and OWI had mentioned several times that they’ve been very busy. What’s more the change coincided with the Game Awards—a show well-known for hosting not just awards, but new game announcements—so, of course, many assumed that, just like two years ago with Soulstorm, the change was meant to start a hype-train for the next game in the series which would be announced at the show. OWI was quick to dispel this speculation, breaking character to say they would not be present at the show.

OWI confirms a no-show on the Game Awards.

Fair enough, so no immediate announcement. I’d like to stress that this was a good move. The series has a nasty history of hyping up things only to delay them or not deliver at all, so cooling heads early was the best call OWI could possibly make. Still, the mention of “many […] projects this month” and the phrasing in their subsequent Magog-themed posts implied that, even if it wasn’t anything as grandiose as a game announcement, something was regardless brewing in the background.

Vykker products

Magog Cartel: If you’re busted, don’t be disgusted. Vykker’s Labs is skilled in a number of areas, and that includes skincare!

Firstly a video showing off a new Vykker product—a face cream guaranteed to burn off the users’ face—was accidentally, which was then taken down, before being put up as a Twitter post. There is little to say about it. Beyond making a few jokes, it didn’t ultimately lead anywhere and there weren’t any subsequent products shown off, so we must assume it was a one-time thing. A little confusing, but (ironically) harmless.

Greener Pastures Realty and Molluck quotes

Magog Cartel: The ‘reallocation’ of trees from the Forest of Mudos is underway as we prepare the site for our latest meat processing plant.

Secondly a previously unseen new company was introduced in the form of advertisements about exploiting a new burial site. With a tiny bit of goodwill it wasn’t exactly difficult to see parallels between the contents of these ads and Necrum:

What was even more interesting though is that the introductory post mentioned the place being in “pristine condition” and the ad being an “early call for investors”.

Magog Cartel: Taken from Molluck’s self published, best selling (mandatory purchase) business bible […]

This, combined with the subsequent posts quoting Molluck (who, by the end of Soulstorm is a wanted fugitive, who the Cartel would definitely not praise, let alone even mention, as he’s an embarrassment), made me assume that we’re seeing a glimpse into Oddworld’s near-past, before Abe broke out of RuptureFarms (or perhaps before he was even born) and before Necrum Mines were built.

Eventually, however, I realized the stream of events wouldn’t really add up. Nothing in Soulstorm implies that Necrum Mines is new(er than RuptureFarms), indeed, by the time the game happens it is already notorious enough that random slaves like Alf know about it and fear it. That leaves us with either assuming there is a whole another burial site that just so happens to fit Necrum to a T, but isn’t it or that it really is set in the past, but much earlier than I assumed. But if it’s the latter case, then why is Molluck presented as an already esteemed mogul?

That was that…

Either way, the fact that you needed to bang the pieces together to fit the puzzle ultimately didn’t matter much as the “Burial site arc” resolved itself with a tweet as quickly as it started without leading anywhere.

Unlike the Vykker product, this abrupt stop was a lot more annoying to me, because it really felt like things were going somewhere and we would learn something new about the world or the power vying in it for control, only for it to completely abort any storytelling and disappear without a trace.

The Big Book of Produkts

Two examples of much higher quality concept art being used than we’re used to from the era.

During the middle of the “Burial site arc” another kind of ad popped up, this time mentioning a so-called Big Book of Produkts (sic). The fact that some of the images used in these posts were old art in seemingly much higher quality than seen before and another ad mentioning Magog trying to figure out a domain name for themselves made it very easy to assume OWI was subtly trying to lead us to find a cache of previously unseen content.

Oddworld Inhabitants: PSA: we’re still figuring out the link, and once we do, you better sign up!!

However, as days passed my initial excitement quickly began to chip away. The subsequent posts didn’t really build on each other and they seemed to simply just be short jokes or filler, without leading anywhere. Beyond a few pieces of new art, there was little of note and even that was of mostly mundane stuff like the rock sack or a barrel with a Scrab Cakes texture.

And the link I so eagerly waited for turned out to be little more than a simple throwaway joke made to make fun of subscription media services. Bummer.

And then came the first of January

And the rug was pulled. The Magog Cartel disappeared just as quickly as it came and OWI returned to its usual content. What changed? Absolutely nothing. And what was the point? I’m not quite sure…

C’est fini

Basically, my issue with this whole campaign was that, with how random the content shared through the month was, I cannot really discern a clear intent. Who was this meant to speak to? And what goal was it meant to achieve? If we ignore the humour for a second, which is a very subjective topic, old fans learned nothing new. Magog being both evil and liars was clear from as early as Exoddus or arguably even Oddysee. New/Potential fans would only be confused by the sudden brand shift, especially as it was reverted just as quickly a month later. Follower numbers continued to drop through the month. Nothing new was announced. The prospects of out-of-game world building was ditched midway. The Molluck quotes were painfully generic and mustache-twirlingly evil, giving zero glimpses into his head. And the Big Book ultimately turned out to be nothing more than an on the nose parody of real life marketing catalogues.

To be fair, it’s not like the world is over by any means. By the comments seen under these posts, many enjoyed the humour. Seeing AE-era Sligs in HD was admittedly nice. Still, I feel a huge salvo of potential marketing was used up for what seems to be little more than throwing vague, undirected shade at anti-consumer business practices, combined with taking a break from the usual tattoo and fan-art re-sharing.

However, if the goal really was to give a break to the social media team, wouldn’t it have been a far stronger message to directly say “We’re giving our social media team a break so that they can enjoy their holidays with the family” and then do the whole Magog thing in January? Evidently they weren’t time-constrained as nothing of that sort was posted during the month. Obviously I’m not implying anyone was made to work against their will or whatever absurdity like that, it’s just that the whole “Look how terrible these business practices are!” angle feels a bit ironic in the face of so much content being posted during a week most people aren’t working and are enjoying their time off. It’s already somewhat unclear to me why the social media pages are kept this hot with little to no actual content to post. Reposting fanart and tattoos is cool and all, I’m not saying that should be stopped, but I feel like if the pages stayed silent until they actually had something to say, the eventual announcement would hit a lot harder.

So what?

I… don’t really know. Maybe I was the fool after all for assuming things would be different this time around? In that case, please feel free to laugh at me, I’m only human too. But even if it was all just a great misunderstanding, that doesn’t take away from my ultimate point: This whole thing was confusing and pointlessly hype generating without going anywhere and such achieves nothing more than diluting the brand image and desensitising people from subsequent posts that actually are important.

So that I’m not just complaining into the air, here are some ideas how this event could’ve been miles better in my opinion, in order of feasibility:

I’d like to end this post with a quote from a friend who recently left the fandom:

It’s been a wild 2023. I hope 2024 is when we finally hear some hints about at least a premise for a potential third game in the [Quintology]!

We’ll miss you! And with that, thanks for reading and I wish you all a belated Happy New Year!