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Licensed Games and Developers – Why Do Movie-Based Games Suffer?

Licensed Games and Developers – Why Do Movie-Based Games Suffer?

Oct 18, 2013

Movie games. We’ve all bought one, and come to regret it, (mine was spending £50 on the Transformers Movie game). But why are they usually so bad? Well, this has a lot to do with big business, and developer constraints.

Licenced games can just rely on reputation alone. Once they have established themselves, there is just no need to produce a high quality game. Gaming is a business at the end of the day, and if it’s producing money, often people don’t care. This is also worse because developers tend to care about their own intellectual

On purchasing a licence, there comes a certain fan-base with it. This then means a mediocre game can still turn a profit, as the public will buy it because of the name or character. A lot of the budget is also used on purchasing the licence, leaving little room for actual development.

It is often not the studios fault, as timing is a huge factor, often only being given some concept art and a vague story arc. Releasing a game alongside a movie is always vital for the film itself, creating more publicity and hype. If a developer is forced into developing for a certain time, then it can lack the polish other games have. Also, they are given very little information or visual inspiration until the film has hit a certain level of production, and so all has to be rushed to meet the films standards ever so quickly. The money hungry executives in Hollywood see the video games are pure merchandising rather than art forms in their own right, and so offer little time for developers to create their own vision.


Batman: Arkham Asylum took the popularity of the Dark Knight and made it unique

Batman: Arkham Asylum took the popularity of the Dark Knight and made it unique


A suitable length of time is vital, to ensure that QA can be done in depth, and without rushing, so that the end product can release without game-breaking bugs. Developers can do great jobs with franchises when given the time; look at Batman: Arkham Asylum.

A good film does not mean a good game. Forcing certain films into a gaming format can often be like bleeding a stone. Fight Club is a notable example. Fantastic film, but as a beat ‘em up? Catastrophic. Plot points cannot always be turned into effective gaming experiences, as the conversion of Fight Club’s psychological thriller plot proves. Filler is always necessary when stretching 2 hours to a fully fledged game, leaving fans bewildered at the storyline, (remember Enter The Matrix?) Also, the LEGO franchise of games have managed to reimagine famous films such as Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings, adding their own charm, and were not tied to a specific release.



If there’s anything to be learnt from these bad movie games, then it’s that original IP’s with the freedom to do anything can be incredibly useful for studios to develop. Given free reign, you can create whatever your hearts desire, without any constraints, creating the highest quality product possible. Despite all my complaints, there are often surprising exceptions, such as the Toy Story 3 adaptation getting good reviews.

For Indie studios, there are no time constraints, as they work autonomously, despite needed to release to make money. And for studios who have made a name for themselves, publishers will often give them time to create the best possible game. This goes to show that time and attention is vital to creating a top notch experience. Sufficient QA is necessary to ensure that the end game is to the highest of standards.


Adam Barsby is a writer for Gaming IQ, alongside running Social Media. If you are partial to stalking, you can follow him on Twitter @barsby3, or read his articles here. 



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