BGE investigates: Where the licensed games at?



So, as another nerdy year of movies draws to a close, there's a lingering thought on my mind: Where the hell where all the licensed games at?

It's not that there weren't games based on preexisting franchises out there. There was plenty of that. But, you see, as an old, not as directly in touch with current mainstream gaming veteran, I remember a time where "The Tie In game" was a necessary part of any big summer movie.

Looking back through my Rom cartridge collection in the Sega Genesis is like a mirror held to the big budget summer movies of the time. The Lion King and Predator 2 are there. Terminator makes an appearance. Every Batman movie had a game.

Now, back to the present, was is the Frozen game? Where was the Dark Knight Rises game? Where was the Avengers game? These are the big movies of the decade, and their presence in the game scene is basically nil!
Obviously there is a market. A...really fucked up market.

Where the hell is the Star Wars Episode 7 game? (#BoycottStarWars7) Every single prequel game had a game following the movie's backstory. And now, with the biggest Star Wars release in years, they can't muster up a game bout it?

Well, let's start with the beginning.  Back when gaming was a niche and graphics had less resolution than a lamppost, during the heyday of Atari, there weren't as many games based on Blockbuster movies, in part, because The concept of the Blockbuster was fairly new, and in part because no one knew exactly how to translate a big budget movie into a Pacman clone.

So we got weird things like China Syndrome(Based on a movie about trying to avoid a powerplant disaster) and E.T. (which is legendary in it's badness.).

After the industry fell, and rose up again thanks to Nintendo, the licensed  genre was reborn stronger. Now that the random experimentation and lack of graphics of the Atari days gave way to actual game genre's and distinguishable clothes and faces on characters , it made making games based on movies easier, and more profitable. What's a game based on Jurassic Park gonna be? A Top down shooter. What's a game based on Terminator gonna be? A light gun shooter. What's game based on Total Recall gonna be? Ehh....
Eeeeh...


Games became a part of the marketer's repertoire. Judge Dredd the movie  wasn't just there to sell you the movie, it wanted to sell you the toys, the soft drink, and yes, the videogames of Judge Dredd. There where multiple different videogames based on one of the licensed comic book failures of the 90's.

Over time, tie in games gained notoriety for being bad, rushed out products made on the cheap and incompetent compared to the standards of the time. They where not all bad all the time, but Tie in games didn't completely blow, everyone just stood around wondering why Golden Eye didn't make them fall over in pain.
James, stop masturbating and look behind you!


But critical reception did not deterr licenced games, since the ingenuity of them was the people who where buying them where operating under the influence of  what I call "The Batman Seal of Approval". Here's how it works. I walked into the toy store. I was checking out the games. I see this.

Jim Carrey doing the universal "Well, WHAT DID YA EXPECT" pose should have been a dead giveaway.


I don't even know what the game in this looks like. I'm 12. It's got Batman on the cover. Bruno Diaz wouldn't lie to me, would he?

So basically when the licensed tie in game was one of the worst things to happen to the player and the character and the genre, it could still skate on by on the promise of cool Batman action.

So what happened? Well, several things happened, I think. For one, gaming grew up, in a lot of the ways you might get by that. While in the past a ok action adventure  with a coat of Bram Stalker's Dracula on it might have been at least on par with all the other ok action adventures of the day, after 3D kicked in  and games started becoming more, well, cinematic, this games started meeting less and less of the expectations of people. Why would you play Alien Resurrection and 5th Element when you have perfectly playable Resident Evil and Tomb Raider on your plate?
Milla  Jovovich naked, videogames, lasers. They knew about that.

But so what, right? People who play this things don't read any magazines? Except they more did, now. As a core generation of older life long gamer started becoming the main demographic to be catered to, and these started becoming more and more informed thanks to the internet, it became harder to slip an unplayable piece of shit in there and coast on brand recognition.

And if all that hit the tie in game in the face, the rising cost of developing games managed to knock it down. With games costing as much as a movie, and being far less likely to make their profits back, it eventually shook the Tie In Game's "Sure Thing" status and threw it to the ground. NOTHING is a sure thing now in mainstream games. Even worst, the development cycle for games grew up longer than a movie's as well, meaning that the idea of "we'll just kick up a game, tie it in to our movie" went straight out the window.

Star Wars 7 doesn't have Star Wars 7: The Game. It has Star Wars: BattleFront, a preexisting series of Star Wars games(based themselves on the non Star Wars Battlefront games) that where fast tracked to meet the release of the movie with as Much DLC as possible. Man of Steel didn't have a full game of it. It had a mobile game.  Pacific Rim didn't have a full AAA game for it on stores. It had a XBLA type game. The Dark Knight movies didn't have games, but those Arkham games sure are about Batman, too!
Total Recall had...Ehhh


Could Tie Ins come back in full force? Well, if there was a reliable "Netflix of Gaming" type service that could be accessed by more people than can now afford (and are willing to have) expensive cutting edge consoles, it would make sense to put licensed games in there. In the same way Marvel/Disney can launch a TV series on Netflix knowing it will have an audience, it could launch  a beat em up that follows the plot of Avengers: Age of Ultron if it knew that there is no high bar to entry.

In fact, the one part where Tie in Games still thrive is portable consoles, where development costs aren't company killing high and the audience can be relied on to be more than life long male gamer, and where even the fruitiest  of Disney Channel TV shows can still have a shot at brand recognition.
You Aren't Gonna catch ME playing this on my Xbox One! (Flexes)

I don't know how I feel about licensed games. On the one hand Mission:Impossible was some of the worst shit I ever played. On the other hand, when they where good, you really COULD feel like you where James Bond, or a T-Rex, or a Robocop. I think there's a lot of potential now that games are growing into more fleshed out narratives, for the immersion to fully kick in, for licensed games to truly be like playing the movie's story. It's just that this potential isn't being met by games trying to be arm candy to movies.

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