Why Movie Based Video Games Suck
Ready to play “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” by Warner Brothers Interactive, set to release around the movie premiere? Before you lay down your hard earned cash, maybe you need to ask yourself . . .
Hey, did you see Iron Man 2? Of course you did. Did you play the super awful Iron Man 2 videogame? Let us hope not, or let us at least hope that you got it on Gamefly and returned the game with no vomit stains. Why do video games from movies and fads suck so bad? If the games suck, why do they keep putting them out on the market?
If you need me to answer this, you are a moron, but I get paid to write, so let me do some hardcore explaining.
First, Why Do Video Games From Movies & Fads Suck?
The main reason for the garbage juice is that there is an extreme lack of development time. If you think about it for just a moment, you will get it. A fad hits the market – Unicorn French Fries – and you hope you have enough time to get a game on the shelves to get some of that sweet Unicorn French Fry money from the general public, before the FDA shuts down the whole operation for using endangered baby kangaroos in the cooking process. Who has time to put together a QA team? Just slap something together that remotely resembles the fad and get it on the shelf.
Movie-based games are almost always released prior to, or just on, the movie release date. That means that many times, a game is based on assumptions about the movie plot, characters, voices, etc. So you play the game and you are like, “WTF? Why is Spider Man green?” or “WTF does this game have to do with the movie?” Want a great example? I give you ET the Extra Terrestrial released by Atari in 1982. It was probably one of the worst games ever created. Here is what went wrong:
- Howard Warshaw had mere weeks to develop the game because it took too long for Atari to secure the rights from Spielberg. Rights secured near the end of July.
- Game to be on shelves in December. Do you know how long it takes to fab and package and ship? The development had to be done by September 1 to meet production schedule. That means he had like 5 weeks to build the game.
- 5 FREAKIN WEEKS to build a game! No wonder it was so bad.
- The development cost $125 million.
- Spielberg did not even like the concept and asked for a pac-man clone instead. What, Reese’s Eat-Em doesn’t float your boat?
- Time was so crunched that Atari skipped product audience testing. Ouch.
- Game got so much promo time that Newsweek predicted BOOMING SALES, leading retail outlets to stock up for Christmas season sales of ET. Atari took this as a signal to make more cartridges.
Verdict? Well, sales were actually not too bad as a total 1.5 million copies were sold. However, Atari had produced nearly 5 million. Do the math. Retailers also felt the pinch. They bought so many copies that they could not move them all. Originally retailing for nearly $50, stores started marking them down with some stores going as low as $1. The rest were sent back to Atari for manufacturer credit. Atari had a net loss of $100 million, and that is 1983 dollars! The game was so bad, they buried millions of unsold cartridges in a New Mexico landfill.
If the games are so bad, why keep putting them on the market?
Do not let me hurt your feelings too badly, princess, but the developers keep pouring the garbage juice because you keep drinking it. They are making money off of your insatiable appetite for licensed merchandise. Even with ET, the game was horrible, but people kept buying it. If Atari had only made 1 million copies, they would have escaped ok, maybe clearing a few million. They would have been fine. They just got greedy. Developers since then have learned from the “ET Rule” that you make just enough to have a few bargain bin copies left at the end. They know you are so eager that you will buy a loosely affiliated Avengers game. Heck, you will buy a Karaoke game if it has your favorite boy band or toy label on it. When the reviews come back and sales drop, it is too late. You spent $50 for an Xbox themed coaster for your dad’s beer. Or better yet, YOUR DAD spent $50 for an Xbox themed coaster for his beer.
PT Barnum said that there is a sucker born every minute. Game developers are just one step ahead of all of you. Learn to say no to crappy licensed games. Your money and brain will last longer.