How come Batman Arkham asylum/city didn't suck? Or how to avoid the curse of licensed games

Since ET 30 years back, licensed games have acquired the reputation of being lackluster. Yet some, like Batman Arkham asylum/city or Aliens vs Predator (1999) have bucked the trend.
I’d like to discuss why licensed games tend to suck and why some licensed games succeed in being quite good despite those pitfalls.

Licensed games tend to suck because they’re opportunistic. They’re made quick and cheap to take advantage of things like movie releases and pop culture trends.

Arkham City/Asylum were awesome because they were made (cliche as it is to say) by fans and for fans. The developers took their time to ensure they were making a quality project.

Basically, licensed games suck because they’re not meant to be good games.

Yeah. The Arkham games (along with the Lego games, which also tend to not suck) are not made just as a movie tie in. They are separate celebrations of the franchise that are given actual time and money for development. When you do that, games come out well.

It’s like companies are constantly repeating the E.T. model, while fans expect Disney’s Aladdin.

Right, I don’t think the problem is licensed games, so much as movie/novel/whathaveyou tie-in games. Arkham Asylum was a good game because they wanted to make a good game that starred Batman, not because Batman was the shit and they knew they could make a quick buck off it (though obviously Batman being in the middle of a successful movie trilogy didn’t hurt). Same with, say, Telltale’s Back to the Future games, BTTF wasn’t exactly hot a couple years ago when it was made, they just wanted to make a BTTF game and so it was good (unfortunately it didn’t save the Jurassic Park game, oh well). The only opportunistic games I can think of offhand that really “worked” were some of the old Disney SNES and Genesis games like Aladdin and The Lion King.

IIRC, Spiderman 2 on at least some of the consoles was a good game - I think they dumbed it down for the Wii port, though.

Basically it’s already been said, but I’ll third (fourth?) it.

The Batman games were simply games set in the Batman universe. They had a AAA development schedule and budget and marketing. They weren’t trying to beat the movie to retail, or forced to follow a movie script, or given tiny budgets. They were proper games first and foremost.

Can’t wait for the new one btw. I was worried, given the switch in developer, but so far it looks like more of the good stuff. I figure the elements are there already, the mechanics are excellent and baked in to their framework, it would take some major undertaking to f them up.

Totally. It is a difference between a licensed property that is just a companion to a movie,and one that is fully devoted to being an in universe game. The thing I loved about Arkham city was that it was built around Batman being a detective(who happens to be a major asskicker), while the movies are about Batman as a superhero.

Exactly why I could care less about the movies, and never understood people’s fascination with them. They’re ok, for shallow hollywood summer blockbusters, chillin at the theater with some popcorn type of experience, but people were talking about them like they were masterpiece cinematic experiences or something.

To me, Batman is infinitely more interesting as the detective wrestling with Gotham’s murky underbelly with his MIND. And doing a little ass kicking while he’s there too. Something the games portrayed fairly well, and the animated cartoon from the 90’s also did a good job with.

To elaborate a little further on why movie games always (tend to) suck, the answer is: Time.

Movie tie-in games are always operating on a VERY strict timeframe so that they hit market while people still remember the movie (read: within a month of the theatrical release, at the latest). And they’re often not even STARTED until the movie is well underway. So even if the executives in charge of the film can resist meddling with the game, odds are they weren’t planning far enough ahead to give developers enough time to make a decent game. And even if they -are-, by some strange freak event, odds are that if the game is to have anything to do with the movie, large parts of it won’t even be able to be started until at least the script is laid down.

It’s just too difficult to schedule a game to come out at the same time as a movie it is based on.

It was definitely a good game - I’ll still pop it in to the Xbox 360 in emulator mode. But even thoug it was a movie tie in, it’s 90% not related to the movie - a few set pieces against Doc Ock, and the rest is just cruising around the city and unlocking & doing crazy webslinging & fighting moves.

Yep. Also the reason why all the lego titles are so good. None of them came out along with the movie releases. They had their own development schedules.

There are, of course, examples of good licensed games that were tied to the main property’s release date. I had low expectations for Kung Fu Panda-- I certainly wouldn’t have bought it-- but it turned out to not only be a fun game to play with the kids but a good, funny game in its own right. It scored a bit higher than the movie it’s based on Metacritic.

The most obvious example, of course, is Golden Eye, which was released two years after the film it was based on. PC gamers might bear a grudge toward it for introducing console kids to first person shooters, but it’s one of the most fondly remembered games of its generation for N64 players. Anyway, it goes to show that licensed games don’t need to be tied to a particular release date to succeed, a counter to the claim that licensed games need to be rushed out the door.

My guess is that licensed games suck about as often, or maybe a bit more often, as normal releases, but they tend to be remembered more because of the notoriety of early licensed games. In my experience, licensed games from before, say, 2000, really did have a good chance of being terrible. I’d guess that game companies know by now that they can’t count on the property to overcome bad reviews and word of mouth.