Licensed Games: How Far Is “Too Far?”

Licensed Games: How Far Is “Too Far?”

From a business perspective, it is easy to understand what makes games based on licensed properties appealing. Stuff like Ben 10 games have what can be called a pre-build customer base. The show’s fans can be more or less tapped to buy the game, minimizing the need to “build” up hype for it. From a gamer’s perspective, making a game out of a licensed property is also understandable. Some gamers would enjoy the idea of stepping “into” the world of their favorite show or movie, putting themselves in the shoes of characters they enjoyed.

The trouble is that the industry has a long history of problems with games like this. Games based on movies, for example, often start the development process “late,” in industry terms. This means that the game needs to be put together and tested within a very short span of time, making it problematic for the developers actually to make something playable. In the case of games based on books, like any of the Harry Potter games, they inevitably need to cut out a significant amount of material. Games based on TV shows could have the full development cycle, but they tend to reflect outdated information once it’s released – episodes are aired much faster than a game can be programmed.

However, there are times when the industry goes too far in its adaptations.

For example, while one might be able to understand the creation of an MMO title based on Middle-Earth – Tolkien shoved in more detail into the setting for The Lord of the Rings than most people can grasp – it is another entirely to create a point-and-click RPG based on Desperate Housewives. Incidentally, such a game exists. Sometimes, the game industry needs to take a step back and learn the difference between a concept that works and a concept that’s just too out there to work. A squad shooter based on The A-Team can be a good idea, but a freeform GTA-style game based on 90210 does not, no matter how many cool cars sometimes appear on the show.

Another complaint that gamers have about licensed games is that even if the games are any good, they’re taking precious resources away from “home-grown” properties. The industry has a lot of ideas that have been successful over the years, and some of those have evolved to the point where they can easily match up well against their movie or TV counterparts. The classic Planescape: Torment is better written than most novels being published today, and the Final Fantasy series has a wealth of characters and stories featuring some of the most memorable writing of their time.

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    Very nice write-up. I definitely love this site. Thanks!

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