The Video Game industry has garnered a lot of respect due to its marketing successes. Triple A titles have grossed hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. The industry also lacks quality control at all levels of entry so it is no surprise that someone looking to make a quick buck would release a sub-par or poorly made game to the masses.
According to an article on TV Tropes titled The Problem with Licensed Games, licensed games are marketed in two different ways. The first and most obvious being the quality of the game, and the second being the reputation or recognition of the game’s title. It also cites that even if a licensed game is made with good intentions, most of the production money goes into purchasing the license which leads to budget issues down the line.
Another article by Jared Cornelius of bleedingcool.com A History of Vileness: The Problem With Licensed Video Gamesprovides a similar insight into licensed games, but takes a much more direct approach. The writer directly blames licensed video games like the infamous E.T. for the video game crash of 1983 that almost ruined the industry.
With so many terrible experiences and broken promises surrounding them, it’s no wonder there is such a stigma surrounding licensed games. YouTube reviewer SomecallmeJohnny reviewed Cory in the House for the nintendo DS. A game based on the kind of sort of popular Disney Channel sequel to That’s So Raven. In his video he mocks the game’s lazy mechanics and barely cohesive story. It is obvious that the game was only made to turn a quick buck and that the developers had absolutely no respect for the fans or the consumers whatsoever.
Although all games should be skeptical of licensed games, there are several examples of successful ones. The Batman Arkham franchise has been heralded as “The Best Super Hero games on the market.” by YouTuber Angry Joe. He has released reviews for every game in the franchise and they have all been fairly positive. The Lego games franchise has drawn in fans of Star Wars, Indiana Jones Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings with its charming art style and unique game mechanics.
YouTube personalities like the Angry Video Game Nerd and PewDiePie have their own respective licensed games like AVGN Adventures and its recently released sequel AVGN Adventures 2: ASSimilation while Pewds has Legends of the Brofist. These games serve as love letters to the fans and are full of references to their own content. I personally await Jim Sterling‘s Licensed Game Adventure!
Ever since video games reached main stream popularity in the 1980’s the industry has continued to evolve. We have watched games evolve from squares on a screen to visual spectacles. Games today include cutscene cinematics and storylines that rival and even surpass those present in film. According to an article published in GQ magazine, video games have become a much more profitable industry than film making. There is a clear market for film adaptations of video games. So why do they fail every single time?
That question has many different answers. David S Goyer, writer for Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Rises believes that the critical failure of film adaptations of video games is the main character. According to him video games are immersive experiences with an emphasis on the environment. Most games do not have characters that are well written enough to carry an entire story on their own. This is a fair point. The Super Mario Bros. Movie was a colossal failure because it did not portray the characters correctly. Who is Mario? He’s an Italian plumber. What does he do? He jumps on stuff to save a princess. Can that premise alone carry a feature length film? Possibly. Can it do so better than the game? Probably not.
Wreck-It Ralph was a resounding success in 2012, but despite its visual style, countless references, and cameos from popular video game characters it is not a film adaptation of a video game. In fact the game Fix-It Felix was created after the film as a promotional tool. It is a film about a video game character, not an adaptation. This approach works. Characters like Mario may not be able to carry an entire film, but the inclusion of various video game characters like Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter allows for jokes and easter-eggs that keep the audience’s attention. Forbes writer John Gaudiosi believes that the film is a journey through gaming’s history that should be judged on its own merit even though it is not a translated work.
At last Disney has found the formula to the successful video game film. Instead of adapting an existing work, create a new IP instead and incorporate cameos and easter eggs that will engage the audience and keep their attention. Oh wait… This formula doesn’t always work does it Adam Sandler? Debuting in July of 2015, Pixels instantly ruined the credibility of video game based films that Disney had worked over twenty years to create. I’ll let CinemaSins take it away from here.