Quotes: The Problem with Licensed Games

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    Magazines 

You buy them, though, don't you? Nobody's making you, nobody's standing there with a gun at your head, but you still flock down to the shops and fork out money for the latest dull-witted Stallone action platformer (except it doesn't have Stallone in it, because that costs extra, and why bother when the dumb saps will buy a box of dismembered dog's organs as long as it's got the film poster on the box?) as soon as you see the nice pretty pictures on the nice glossy advert.
Stuart Campbell, Amiga Power, "Ready For Your Close-Up"

    Web Animation 

Hey, comic books, why don't you stop hopping into that big cold film industry bed and come snuggle up by the fire with games on more permanent basis? You know all he can offer is Green Lanterns and Catwomans and he's just gonna waft you out like a dutch oven the moment you stop making money.

We'll never ask you to change for us! The Arkham games will let you have all the dumb villains you can come up with!

Aw, don't be like that, baby, Superman 64 was YEARS ago!

    Web Original 

Video games based on movies are almost universally terrible, we all know that. The studios want them to be commercials, the game designers haven't seen the movie yet and the only people who buy them are confused grandparents late for a birthday party.

Movies have always been a questionable source for video game adaptations, partly because they have plots and stories, and partly because people in movies don't jump around a lot or pick up power-ups very often.
Josh "Livestock" Boruff, Something Awful

I tend to gravitate towards games based on films and TV shows—a gamer’s Russian roulette if there ever was one. To be frank, most games based on films tend to have the same effect on me as being stuck behind a really slow driver who’s either asleep at the wheel or possibly deceased.

In many cases, it's akin to forcing a square peg into a round hole as the license's basis is far removed from any engaging interactive context. A movie can be action packed, but not in a similar way that works in a video game. The movie Jaws is suspenseful and ends with a literal bang, but most of it deals with character interaction, mostly in speech, or watching a slow buildup to a swimmer's death. Ergo why the video game takes on it have you instead swimming and harpooning fish or playing as the shark yourself. The best and/or easiest properties to make the transition tend to have scenes or focus with shooting or battling, with many decent or some of the best in the genre for run'n'gun, shmup, or tournament fighters like Aliens, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dragon Ball being just a few with noteworthy titles. Otherwise, it becomes an IP stuck into whatever manner of game of choice like having the citizens of Springfield skateboarding or wrestling or making a side scroller with whatever snack food or soft drink mascot available.

There's a famous story of market research that says that the electric knife was almost not brought to market because research showed that nobody would actually use one. Until someone noticed that, although nobody wanted one, tons of people would buy them as gifts for other people. And so, despite the fact that there was no actual demand for the product, the electric knife was launched.

But that somber indictment of capitalism seems like an Edible Arrangement compared to Gilligan's Island, the NES game. Gilligan's Island, off the air for twenty-two years at the time of the game's release, was hardly the model of a property beloved by youth and college kids with disposable incomes. Nor is 'Oh bugger we're stuck on an island and bloody incompetent' the image of an exciting action game. Even Dallas would be better — characters clearly have extra lives, and you can at least shoot JR.
Dr. Phil Sandifer finally snaps

People loved Wayne's World. They loved the skit, they loved the movie, so they should have loved the game, right? No. We were tools enough to jerk our pelvises at nearby women and scream, "Schwing!" for a couple years, but we weren't tools enough to buy this.

I don’t think I can hold your suspense on whether this movie is bad. But the real question is how bad? I gauge the absolute worst on the level of the Rocky and Bullwinkle NES game which I actually played btw.

Chris: It’s worth noting that there was a video game made of this movie, which I only know because a 'friend’ of mine threatened to give it to me for my birthday. Do you think anyone actually played that game?
David: The actual first two paragraphs of the walkthrough:

"Why are you playing this game? If you have already spent your hard-earned money on the game and insist on beating it, fine, this walkthrough is for you. Otherwise, cease and desist now and go find another game. You know, one that might actually be fun. Catwoman, the game, is worse than Catwoman, the movie."
—Chris Sims and David Uzumeri on Catwoman

After all, what is Holmes' hallmark? An eye always open for details, a strong grasp of scientific matters and a mind able to piece seemingly unrelated clues together. Put that into a game, and it translates as: pixel hunting, obscure knowledge and leaps of logic — not exactly an engaging prospect.
Johann Walter, Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Serrated Scalpel review on Adventuregamers

Movies, and games, have a sordid past. It started as ill attempts to capture the cinematic flair of a rousing Spielberg flick, with a globule of pixels. Now games have cameras of their own, but things aren't much better, as games are rushed out to meet film premiere date, and cash in on the hype, at the price of quality. While bad movies often make bad games, its when a great movie spawns an interactive atrocity, when things hit rock bottom. Though these days, its the rule, not the exception.
Gametrailers, Top Ten Worst Movie Games

Presumably Sega took a look at the Famicom catalog and note that games based on cartoons were supposed to be slapdash, generic affairs.
Doctor Sparkle, Chrontendo, on Zillion II: The Tri Formation

They don’t make games like this very often anymore, but there’s a good reason for that. Because people wised up about buying licensed games when they were full retail titles. Let’s hope they’re still smart enough to do it when they’re $10.
Ben Jones of PSNStores.com, on R.I.P.D.: The Video Game

    Web Video 

Somewhere in a distant land
Beneath a thousand tons of sand
It lay dormant, undisturbed
In decade-spanning slumber
Its sole composing parts
Were Atari plastic carts
Of staggeringly large and intimidating number
It recalled a time unclear
Before it had been buried here:
A time of flashing lights and noise
And wonderful excitement
It had been made to entertain
But in practice had caused only pain
And so was exiled to this pit
With nary an indictment.

What's he catching hearts for? I suppose it's like in the movie where Lorraine has a crush on Marty. Why isn't he avoiding the hearts then? Oh, I see. I guess he's catching them in a book or something. It's the most literal interpretation of a movie. "It's about time, so let's have clocks! It's about romance, let's have hearts!" Was this game designed by a human being? ...After that, it's the Enchantment Under The Sea dance where Marty plays guitar. What do you do?

You have to catch musical notes. What more did you expect?

I'll tell you one thing, it's certainly no Guitar Hero or Rock Band! ...Wouldn't this have been an opportune time to hear "Earth Angel" or "Johnny B. Goode?"

(double take)

OK, wait a minute. It is Johnny B. Goode. On crack!

I understand that back then, if it had a face, they made a frickin' game out of it, but really? Home Improvement: THE GAME? I mean, for shit's sake, have some restraint! That's about as good an idea as making a FPS out of Sister Sister.
JonTron

You know, I should have been more careful when I bought this game. I forgot the cardinal rule of movie tie-in games. It's that they always, always, suck. Especially when it's made twenty years after the fact.

Ocean truly realized how lucrative these licenses could be, and started buying up everything they could get their grubby little mitts on... The games weren't bad, but people quickly grew tired of them because they were damn near identical... Basically, Ocean's games started to feel as if they were coming off an assembly line, and they also ended up making games that were just flat-out total shit... All of the imagination just seemed to leave the building when it came to Ocean. Although they still produced some cracking arcade conversions and original titles around this time, the licensed games are largely what most people remember about them anyhow, because they continued to pump them out to the bitter end of the 8-bit machines and beyond, by which time their once pristine reputation had taken a hell of a beating.
Kimble Justice, "The A-Z of Licensed Games: Navy Seals"

    Real Life 

After the planning stages we had a pretty solid game design document...Then the word came down from a lawyer at Columbia working for Arnie that he didn't want to be associated with violence and the game should not feature him wielding guns. Even dynamite was included which messed up the plans for a toy company that was ready to go with a Last Action Hero doll holding dynamite — I heard they ended up recoloring it bright orange so it doesn't look quite like dynamite.

This was complete disaster for our game storyboard of course, and there was a very hurried meeting in the London offices where we discussed alternatives. The game had a completely fixed deadline, there was no possibility of extension and communications with the American lawyer took ages (I think everything got proposed to either Arnie himself or to some sort of image consultant... either way a simple question like 'can he punch' took a long time to get answered)...I think everyone involved in the project did a sterling job to turn a complete disaster into a game that was vaguely playable. It will always be remembered as yet another very bad film licensed video game
Pete Baron, lead developer for Last Action Hero

ProtonJon: Where did the idea of Superman going into a virtual world to save his friends come from?
Eric Caen (developer): Political reasons, as the licensor refused to let Superman kick “real” people…
Jon: Why was the decision made to limit the use of Superman’s powers in the game when that is one of the primary draws of the character?
Eric: Again, it wasn’t our decision
Jon: What took up the most development time?
Eric: Politics!!! Approval process! ...I am not allowed to detail what we had to remove, but it was a lot.
Superman 64 interview (archived by John Szczepaniak)

Game publishers seem to think that having a recognizable brand name will hypnotize players into ignoring bad graphics or nonexistent gameplay. History has repeatedly proven them wrong... Part of the problem is that every dollar spent on acquiring the license is money not put into making a fun game.
"Richard Del Medio" (pseudonym of Blues Brothers 2000 developer Jared Baierschmidt), Electronic Gaming Monthly, "How Bad Games Get Made"