An age-old tradition exists within the realm of licensed games: take an already established franchise, adapt that into a movie, then adapt that movie into a game. The "matryoshka doll effect" of an adaptation within an adaptation often leads to less-than-stellar results; the developers are essentially attempting to emulate a copy of a copy.
The adaptation problem rings ever true in the realm of comic-book titles, as so many licensed games are really just timely movie tie-ins. Warner Bros.' Montreal studio are hoping to change all that, though, taking the lessons learned from "Batman: Arkham City" and applying that mindset to their upcoming DC superhero titles.
"If you look over the past decade of superhero games, there were two. The first one was when Neversoft made 'Spider-Man' – I think it was back on the PS1. People were like, ‘Wow, this is really good,'" Reid Schneider, WB Montreal's vice-president, told Canadian Business Weekly. "Then Rocksteady came out with 'Arkham Asylum' and that again changed the expectations."
Schneider goes on to make the point that neither of those games – which are both lauded as fantastic titles by critics and consumers – were really tied into a particular film adaptation. The studios, NeverSoft and Rocksteady, created these worlds from scratch using the comics as their source material.
"If you look at the similarities between the two, they weren't based on movies per se," Schneider continued. "They were just taking that really rich fiction from the comic books and exploring the characters. It's not about hitting the movie date or some arbitrary date – it was giving the game the time it needs to be successful and really just concentrating on the quality of it."
Refreshing talk from an industry that traditionally treats licensed properties as a way to make a quick buck off the related film's marketing blitz. There's still no word on what precise DC properties Warner Bros. Montreal are currently working on, but their approach is certainly encouraging. Despite titles like Activision's upcoming "The Amazing Spider-Man," Warner Bros. have changed the – er, game by moving away from movie tie-ins, instead opting for original content.
"We can't speak for everyone, but if you just look at the market, the number of [movie tie-ins] and the money they're bringing in is dwindling," said Schneider. "There's a real stratification of games where only the really high-quality games with mass market appeal are making money. That whole middle layer, where there were movie games or cash-ins – that market is gone."
What do you think about movie tie-in games? Are there days numbered? Have "Arkham" games changed the landscape forever? Let us know in the comments and on Twitter!