Lunchtime Discussion: Tie-In Games

So yesterday we talked about games making their way into other media after yesterday’s news of Warner Bros buying out Rocksteady, with the intention of moving development of games from their IPs in house. Based on last year’s Batman: Arkham Asylum it looks an obvious choice, but Batman was only the studio’s second title and its first to be based on a non-gaming IP.

Not exactly a proven track record in converting significant franchises into successful, and given that most tie-in games are terrible it does seem a slightly odd purchase. Of course it lets Warner do what it wants with the rights to Batman games and moves them towards a larger publishing role, but still an odd choice.

So lets talk about tie-in titles. They have genuinely been getting better in recent years, in particular Batman: AA and Wolverine Origins from last year stick out as fine examples of what a good developer can really do with a franchise’s characters.


The likely reason for the success is that they weren’t really tied in to a movie. Batman piggy backed off of the success of The Dark Knight, but seemed to be set in DC Animated Universe, and whilst Wolverine was supposed to be tied into the film, it was a tenuous link at best. These games come out well because they’re not constrained by outside factors, as so many of these games are.

Sadly it seems that too many publishers only care about producing games based off of external IPs when there’s some big release. Hopefully Batman’s success has shown that you don’t need to constrain developers to release around a film release for a game to sell well or have critical success, games based on popular franchises will sell well anyway.

Of course it’s to early to tell yet, but last years Avatar: The Game doesn’t seem to shed a lot of hope.

The issue with these titles is that they seem to suffer from the Christmas release issue, games only sell well at Christmas because games only release at Christmas and tie-in games only sell well when released with a film because they’re only released with films. The fact that they are tie-ins constrains them to very specific dates and often ties them into story and artwork decisions, something that never makes for a great game.

So what’s the issue? Does the industry need to follow Warner’s example and tie together film makers and game developers? Or should tie-ins just be abandoned and developers stick to creating their own interpretation of IPs?