Pong Toss! Frat Party Games, known in Europe as Beer Pong! Frat Party Games, is a sports/party video game developed by JV Games for the Wii's WiiWare digital distribution service. It was first released in North America in 2008, and then in Europe the following year. The premise is based on the party game beer pong, which requires players to toss ping pong balls into plastic cups filled with alcohol. It was the first in JV Games' Frat Party Games brand. While they considered using traditional controls for the game, the developers felt that it should use the Wii Remote so that it could be more fun. They conducted a test on 15 people to see how they played beer pong.
Pong Toss has had a substantially negative reaction from critics by critics; it holds an aggregate score of 18/100 and 18.75% on Metacritic and GameRankings, respectively, which includes reviews from websites such as IGN and 1UP.com. It received negative reception from parents, activist groups, and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. over its premise before its release due to its connection to alcohol as well as what they considered a lax Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) content rating. In response, JV Games removed reference to drinking alcohol from the game and its title, which caused the ESRB to lower the content rating. A sequel was released titled Pong Toss Pro: Frat Party Games, which received negative but improved reception.
Players use the Wii Remote to throw an in-game ping pong ball across a table, with the intent of landing the ball in one of several cups on the other end; if successful, the cup is removed from the table. The game features two game modes: Pong Toss, which allows players to play in a traditional tournament style; and Speed Pong, which encourages players to use power-ups to negatively affect their opponents and sink their balls first. This mode was created by JV Games especially for the game.
Pong Toss! Frat Party Games was originally announced on May 21, 2008 as Frat Party Games: Beer Pong, and was intended to be based on the drinking game beer pong. It was developed by JV Games and directed by its Vice President, Jag Jaeger, and was released for the Wii's WiiWare download service on July 28, 2008 in North America and February 27, 2009 in Europe. The game was put on WiiWare due to the lessened development time, risk, cost, and the low size of the game. It was the first video game created in their Frat Party Games brand due to the drinking game's popularity. The purpose of the game was to allow people to play beer pong without having to invest hours into it. Jaeger noted additional advantages, which included a lack of disease and not having to set up or clean up the game.
The developers followed a common set of rules from beer pong while designing the gameplay. While the designers considered mapping the controls to a traditional game controller, they felt that it would be no fun if not developed with the Wii Remote in mind. They designed the game to not require the use of any buttons to play. One of the challenges was that beer pong players had a different throwing style, and that they had to find a "happy medium" to ensure that they did not have to add another level of complexity. To accomplish this, they conducted a study to analyze the throwing habits of more than 15 beer pong players to fix this problem.
Pong Toss received controversy due to its reference to alcohol and purportedly lax ESRB rating. Community groups in Virginia complained about its Teen rating for ages 13 and up; they argued that a game based on the use of alcohol should not be sold to people under the legal drinking age. Parents sent letters to JV Games and Nintendo, the producer of the Wii console about the issue. Jaeger was dismissive of the controversy, and had no idea the word "beer" would elicit such a strong reaction. Jaeger used several different examples of video games and other media that feature things considered inappropriate for children yet get a relative pass. Examples include alcohol consumption in TV series such as Family Guy and The Simpsons, gambling in video games, and the Grand Theft Auto series' rating for ages 17+, despite its graphic violence and sexual content.
The Attorney General of Connecticut Richard Blumenthal sent a letter which criticized the ESRB for its Teen rating of Pong Toss. ESRB spokesperson Eliot Mizrachi responded that while they respect the Blumenthal's right to disagree with their decision, it was not their role to censor games, but to merely judge its contents. Later, Patricia Vance, President of the ESRB, wrote a letter to Blumenthal which defended its rating of the game as it did not depict the consumption of alcohol or promote binge drinking. She added that the rating was determined by three specially-trained adult raters not connected to the industry. Blumenthal sent a second letter to the ESRB, which requested that other games containing alcoholic references should be given an Adult Only rating for people 18 and over. He criticized the organization for saying that the alcoholic references were minimal; he maintained that the name Beer Pong directly refers to a drinking game, that alcohol is depicted in the game's graphics, and that the whole premise of the game is based on heavy alcohol consumption – which meant that the game was not appropriate for teenagers and should have received more consideration.
Jaeger reiterated his stance that the game was about the sport of beer pong, not alcohol consumption. Nevertheless, Jaeger informed Blumenthal that the title would be changed to Pong Toss! Frat Party Games and that all references to alcohol would be removed. Blumenthal called this a victory, but only a small one if it was not to be followed by others, though he added that Pong Toss still glorified alcohol abuse and binge drinking. Time's Meaghan Haire felt that JV Games should have anticipated the reaction, considering that both alcohol and video games often received criticism from parents. She added that many critics felt that the company went too far with the game. The final version was rated for 'everyone six and older'. Despite the controversy in the United States, the game makes reference to beer pong in its European title.
Pong Toss! Frat Party Games received substantially negative reception; it holds an aggregate score of 18/100 and 18.75% from Metacritic and GameRankings, respectively. 1UP.com's Andrew Hayward found the controls to be poorly designed and the graphics felt very dated, while IGN's Matt Casamassina found the game to be "shallow" and "pointless". GamesMaster's Matthew Castle felt that beer pong was a simple game and that the game was pointless as a result. He also criticized the controls and visuals. 1UP.com's Kyle Stallock found the notion of an Adults Only rating for Pong Toss! to be inappropriate when it was borne in mind that games such as Grand Theft Auto IV, Condemned 2, and World of Warcraft hold more lenient ratings, despite the fact that they allow players to consume alcohol. An editor for 1UP.com felt that the game loses its point due to the lack of reference to beer pong. Jaeger was not bothered by the negative reception from critics and gamers. He suggested that many of its critics had never played the game, and that because they are hardcore gamers, they are prejudiced. Jaeger stressed that it is intended for casual gamers such as those who enjoyed Wii Sports. GamesRadar ranked it as the 49th worst game ever made. The staff criticized the lack of alcohol consumption and felt that there was no point without it. A later article by GamesRadar ranked it at 78 on their worst games ever list. In addition to complaining about the lack of alcohol, the staff felt that the motion controls were sloppy.
JV Games announced a sequel entitled Pong Toss Pro - Frat Party Games, also for the WiiWare service. It has similar gameplay mechanics, though JV Games attempted to address the concerns of critics of its predecessor on matters such as graphics and accuracy. It was released in North America on June 28, 2010 for 600 points, as opposed to the 800 points price point that its predecessor had. This was due to the state of the market. A trailer for Pong Toss Pro was released which contained several news clips questioning comments made by Blumenthal about his service in Vietnam. Pong Toss Pro was received better than its predecessor by critics, though the overall reception was still mostly negative. It holds an average rating of 48.33% on GameRankings. IGN's Lucas M. Thomas felt that while it was a better game than its predecessor, it was not good enough to be worth buying. Nintendo Life's Corbie Dillard agreed; he felt that beer pong wasn't exciting, and that even though it was a better game than its predecessor, it didn't work well as a video game. Not all reception was as negative; Nintendo World Report's Matthew Blundon felt that it was a decent followup, while Gamertell's Jessica Moen enjoyed the motion controls and said that it was good for people looking for a "fun party game".