The term “movie licensed game” has been a curse in the video game industry for years. It is
a relatively simple concept to translate a movie or television show into a video game. However,
there are several aspects of the typical licensed game that hold it back from being amazing, and
often from even being competent.
First of all, most great movies tend to have sequels or prequels and television series are
ongoing. Thus, if movies or television series have a video game based in their universes, they
need to tread carefully. The stories that the games tell need to coincide with their counterparts
on the silver or big screen without ruining what could be told in the original format. If a game
simply retells the story from the movie or show it is based on, there would be little to no reason
to experience the game.
Next, these games must be released by a certain times in order to remain relevant. This
means that studios must develop a game from almost nothing in the short time it takes to shoot
and cut a film or television. This means that games often end up looking terrible, sounding
inferior, and suffering from poor or repetitive gameplay. Usually, the term “shovelware” is
used to refer to titles like these that have been produced on a short budget and in a rushed
Lastly, licensed games have developers that are not able to produce the best games. While
there are many great developers, these developers work on their own series and don’t bother
with other intellectual properties with few exceptions. If a game development studio can craft an
exciting and engaging tale on their own, why would they bother with other stories?
However, it does not have to be this way.
Even though these licensed games have had a bad reputation, overcoming this curse
is possible. Games like “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial”, which almost single-handedly crashed
the video game industry, still exist, but we have since seen studios like Telltale Games and
Platinum Games taking on licenses like “The Walking Dead”, “The Legend of Korra” and
“Game of Thrones”. Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” series, in particular, has gained wide acclaim
throughout the gaming journalism with a 92/100 on Metacritic.
In fact, those who produce movies and television shows have seen the lack of value that
these shovelware titles have. Marvel has said that they would not let other studios make a video
game out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe until they found a developer they deem worthy.
This also includes franchises based on comic books and novels. However, these licensed
games tend to be better than their shovelware counterparts. In fact, one of the best video game
franchises of the previous generation was the “Batman: Arkham” series. The game series oddly
mimics The Dark Knight Trilogy in that they evolved their respective mediums in both storytelling
and action. Fighting games that use these source materials are also great, such as the “Marvel
vs. Capcom” series or “Injustice: Gods Among Us”.
The video game industry will always have terrible shovelware games like “Rambo: The Video
Game” and “Iron Man 2”, but there will also be games like “GoldenEye 007” and “The Walking
Dead.” Don’t be afraid of movie licensed games because of their past legacy, although being
cautious is something I would advise.