Licensing Issues: A Thing of the Past?

There is a reason there are a lot of images like this on the internet.

Video games have been one of the fastest growing entertainment forms ever. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by other types of entertainment such as TV and movies, and almost without fail, any time a major blockbuster is being released or a show gains enough popularity, a video game adaption is not far behind. In the past these adaptions have almost always been written off as poor representations of the source material, while lacking in overall quality. With some more of the recent releases and trends in the gaming industry, could bad video game adaptions be a thing of the past?

Everyone who had an N64 remembers Superman 64. Known as one of the worst games for the console, it suffered from many problems with controls, level and mission design, and just lack of fun. For a game about Superman, playing it just didn’t feel like you were controlling Superman. He was deprived of some of his powers, and while it was explained from a story standpoint, it didn’t change the fact that it stripped away what drew people to the hero in the first place.

On the opposite side of that, gamers have recently been able to step into the boots and don the cape of Batman in this generation’s Arkham series. What made those games so enjoyable is that instead of trying to make Batman conform to the game, developer Rocksteady looked at what made Batman great and built the games around him. Traversing the world with his arsenal of gadgets, puzzle solving with his detective skills, and fighting enemies with a mastered grasp on hand-to-hand combat made the game not only fun to play, but actually did the source material justice.

There have been many examples of bad licensed games and fewer examples of good licensed games, but it seems that the industry is starting to understand what makes the good games work. With the already mentioned Arkham series (and other franchises like High Moon Studios’ Transformers), a pattern has shown that established franchises may benefit in the video game space by crafting existing characters around an original story. This gives the developers an opportunity to stay true to the characters while making a story that works with them instead of against them.

Many movies featuring characters with certain abilities have a plot that is designed around trying to defeat that character by taking away their abilities and bringing them to a human, vulnerable level. The problem that exists when those stories translate to games is no one wants to play as a super hero with half of his powers, or as a warrior with no weapons. The shift away from those games has been a great improvement to licensed games, but some still take their beats straight from movies. Luckily, those games have shifted to a smaller and cheaper scale.

With the rise of smart phones and the expansions of app stores, publishers and their collaborating companies have found a cheaper, faster way to produce their games that will still reach their target audience. Take Batman’s newest movie outings for example. The Dark Knight Rises was a hit in theaters and completely avoided being brought to home consoles as a $60 video game. With the new option of an inexpensive experience for customers and a cheap and easy development process, The Dark Knight Rises was made into a mobile game for phones and tablets. This smaller experience is better for those who want to play the game, while saving them money and giving them a chance to play it on the go.

This separation between original stories and movie adaptations shows a possible bright future for licensed games. As we move into a new console generation, the opportunities for improved games as a whole is exciting, but I will be keeping my eye on licensed games in particular.

So how do you feel about licensed games? Do you think they have a place in the gaming industry? Let us know in the comments!