I’m sure you’re all familiar with games based on films, comics, anime, or other forms of entertainment. In fact, in all likelihood, you may own a few games that are marketing tie-ins. It’s a fairly well-accepted notion that any game released to tie-in with a film release is going to be a bad game. Though there have been a few exceptions to this rule, the standard is fairly reliable. But what about those other games that are a marketing tie-in, but aren’t coinciding with any current release? The most recent example of this is “Aliens: Colonial Marines” which is based on a culturally significant science fiction franchise, but has no current release in the theaters. Even the most recent film in the Aliens franchise, Prometheus, was released for home media release five months prior, so the game can’t really be considered a tie-in to that movie.
The thing about licensed games of this nature tend to have a two-way split amongst consumers. Firstly, there are people who are not as familiar with the franchise, or are not enamored with it at least, and will judge the game solely on it’s merits as a standalone game. Then you have fans of the franchise, who will most likely adore the game regardless if it deserves such praise. In the case of “Aliens: Colonial Marines”, the game has received heavy criticism for sub-par graphics, and bland gameplay. However, there are gamers that are fans of the franchise who will consider the game as an interactive homage to the films they love, and will ignore any shortcomings, even if they are painfully obvious to everyone else.
But is this a bad thing? After all, what gamer doesn’t want to play a game based on their favorite film or television show, provided that the game be considered fun to you. If you yourself enjoy the game, why should you care what all the reviewers in the world are saying? I can personally attest to this, as I am a fan of “Dragonball Z” and “Dragonball: Raging Blast 2″ is one of my favorite games in my entire library, and I continue to play it regularly, despite having accomplished every goal in the game’s achievement/trophy system. And yet “Raging Blast 2″ received mediocre reviews and performed lackluster in sales, except in Japan.
On the other end of the spectrum, is this brand (or fan) loyalty actually hurting gaming? If a developer releases a lackluster game, and the legions of fans buy the game and sing it’s praises anyway, what motivation does that give them to make improvements? And on some level, they may even think that they should not even attempt to improve, because they may come to the rationalization, “if we change too much, we’ll alienate our fan base.”
It’s a delicate balancing act, because by maintaining status quo, you please your loyal fans, but you also risk alienating new customers from taking interest in your games. And from a business standpoint, the smart decision would be to stay the course, and keep the established fan base pleased, and hope that you might get some newcomers to lay down their cash as well, rather than risk losing your established audience for a POTENTIAL new audience. What we end up with is a lack of originality in games, and developers just resting on their laurels, whether it be with a game based on a license or not.
So the lesson we can learn here is that perhaps you shouldn’t trust a fan’s opinion when buying a game, unless you are also a fan, since we tend to see through rose-colored glasses. On the other hand, you should also be wary of some stranger telling you that you “will definitely” love or hate a specific game. For example, there are countless reviewers that consider “Final Fantasy 7″ one of the best games that has been made or ever will be made. But for a person like me, that does not like role-playing games, would be sick of that “all-time classic” within five minutes.
In the end, it’s hard to come to a concrete answer whether these licensed games really damage gaming as a whole. Some may argue that games like this just stifle creativity and clutter the shelves at game stores, where others will argue that it allows fans to vicariously live their favorite stories through these games. But when it comes to a lack of quality, there really is a simple answer for you fans out there. And that is to show some restraint. I hate to pick on “Aliens: Colonial Marines” but it really is proving to be the best example for this article, so I will have to dunk it’s head in the water and hold it down one last time. If you are a fan of “Aliens” and you’ve read the reviews, and watched gameplay footage, and consider the game to be a bad game, then you have to show restraint and just not buy the game. If the game looks fun to you, then by all means, buy it, but we fans have to stop pre-ordering and snatching up these games the moment they become available just because they have the brand name title on the box. If a message is going to be sent to these developers, that we’re not going to be spoon-fed garbage, then the best way to do it is to just not give them your money.
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This article was first posted on February 14, 2013