What Ever Happened To Movie Tie-In Games?

May 13, 19  | posted by C. Anthony Rivera (1008)

A small discussion on the unquestioned disappearance of movie tie-in video game titles.

Once upon a time, within the entertainment industry, came along a trend amongst filmmakers and video game developers where an obligatory tie-in adaptation had to be made. Alongside film releases in theaters, there would sometimes come a game that would be attached to a movie to further increase popularity and revenue. But the gamers of the world soon grew tired of these titles. One after the other, the reviews would find themselves stuck in the average/mixed/fair rankings, being panned by players and critics alike for any number of reasons they had. They just weren’t that great; they felt like rental games for adults but little treasure chests for children who loved the movie they saw in theaters so much that they just had to purchase the game right away. Convenient, though, for those who worked on the game based on a movie, for sales were promised if the movie was well-received.

These games would bring nothing new to the table, however. Games like Iron Man and Transformers might sound excellent on paper to a game developer, with Stark’s weaponized suit armor and the Autobots’ shifting capabilities, one would think these would be ultimately badass to play as. Unfortunately, their reviews would be in the mixed range, along with many adaptations that wouldn’t stand out.

These games usually took the same route by incorporating the film’s plot while adding more content to make the whole experience worthwhile, which made them feel even more of a necessity to be produced. Some even felt special when they were given the actors from the movies to reprise their roles to make the game feel more authentic and true to the source material; sometimes even the same sound effects and music would be shared amongst the movie makers and game developers to help the process, in order to release side-by-side with its visual counterpart. Most of the time this was appreciated, but altogether these types of games received a bad reputation for being mediocre in general.

While the vast majority of these games are going to be left in the dust, there are several in which I would like point out for being those that definitely stand out from the rest: Spider-Man 2 (2004), The Warriors (2005), Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009), GoldenEye (1997), and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) were all movie tie-in video games that surpassed the mixed ranking threshold and critical expectations. These were remembered for having passionate work put into them, made by developers who cared for the source material to make games that remained true to the visual narratives while maintaining their own creative madness to complement the plot and characters given from the silver screen. Verily, they’re all great adventures, and any gamer should give these a try if movie tie-ins don’t usually suit your fancy.

The last tie-in game I can recall was probably Pixar’s Brave (2012), which was received with average reviews, but even then there was a noticeable decline in tie-in games. 2011 was the final big year for these sorts of games, with Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Cars 2, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 taking center stage on the big screen while taking the bottom shelf at the video game store.

I believe pressure from producers and publishers and development issues, along with a rough reception, probably led to the downfall of the movie tie-in trend. In a time where comic book movies are the main attraction, you would figure that one or two would be released with a video game to complement it – besides the Lego ones. Some do, though, in minimal fashions that usually dwindle down to mobile games and console titles that take inspiration from the films to implement something else that doesn’t have anything to do with the main plot. Oftentimes they’ll take place before or after the film’s events, so they wouldn’t exactly count in this case, otherwise Star Trek (2013) would be taken into account as the last tie-in I can recall, but the days of playing a video game for a film’s narrative seem to be long gone, unless there’s one lurking in the shadows of the forgotten human memory.

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