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1687070cookie-checkUncovering the Still-Beating Heart of the Movie-Game Sub-Genre
21 February 2022

Uncovering the Still-Beating Heart of the Movie-Game Sub-Genre

It wasn’t too long ago that it was commonplace for a new movie to be accompanied by a video game tie-in. In fact, the last few big-name ones to hit consoles came on the last of Microsoft’s consoles to be competitive with PlayStation, the Xbox 360, which tied into the earliest entries of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Times are different now, though, and after many undercooked games with movie titles hit the shelves, studios and games turned away.

Now, we’re in the days of the superbly popular hybrid console, the Nintendo Switch, and mighty Xbox and PS consoles, with games taking far longer to create. Yet, there’s been a reversal of sorts. The gaming industry is now much bigger than the movie industry, and so, console and PC video games are now being drawn from by other entertainment industries, with even the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog inspiring a smash-hit movie. So, what happened to movie-based games, and does anything similar still exist?

Some gems among a generally weak sub-genre

The overarching story as to why video games based on movies fade is due to the timeframes becoming increasingly incompatible as gaming hardware improved. Hollywood works on a relatively quick turnaround, while nowadays, a triple-A game worthy of a $60 or $70 price tag requires several years to make – particularly those that don’t merely tweak existing sports or first-person shooter formula.

Still, that doesn’t mean that the rough 12-month turnaround wasn’t already too much for some. Many will cite the now-famous pictures of thousands of copies of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for Atari sitting in a landfill. Poor quality games like movie games led to a market crash in 1983, leading companies like Nintendo to issue their own seal of quality. While many will remember the demise of the sub-genre and the countless, terrible cash-grabs that saw it peter out, there were some real gems.

A younger, respected Electronic Arts, for example, made great use of the movie IP for The Lord of the Rings, creating two of the best movie-based video games with The Two Towers and The Return of the King. However, if there’s one game to point to as the epitome of move-based video games, it’s a James Bond classic.

While the movie rarely makes it high up in 007 rankings, GoldenEye 007 was a game-changer for the industrythat just happened to be based on a movie. Perhaps being the most important game released on the Nintendo 64, it was a pioneer of the nascent FPS genre as well as being genuinely enjoyable – leading to its enduring legacy as one of the greats. Still, releases like ET, Ghostbusters, and Enter The Matrix sit upon a long list of bad games that greatly overpower the good releases.

How movies still work into gaming

In the era of the immensely powerful PlayStation 5 and what seems to be an endless slate of overhyped games, it’s odd to think that Hollywood wouldn’t seek to cash in on gaming. After all, gaming is bigger than movies now, and more people than ever are playing all different kinds of games.

Strangely, after so many failed attempts in the past, Hollywood is drawing from games at a record pace but seems to actually be doing it well now. The multiplayer party game experience, Werewolves Within, was released as a movie of the same name in 2021. It earned an 86 percent fresh critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes, adding to more successful recent outings in the movie sub-genre like Rampage, Tomb Raider, Warcraft, and Pokémon: Detective Pikachu.

Still, this isn’t so much a matter of games offering another way for movie fans to experience the on-screen universe as it is Hollywood creatives looking for IPs with built-in audiences. Instead, what we’ve seen are entertainment developers with faster turnarounds making movie-themed products. On the list of the latest available slots, there are several that draw from the big screen. Jurassic Park and Terminator 2 represent the more classic versions of these slots, while Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Raptor Riches were spun out with the new movies. Perhaps a third slot will release with the third of the reboot trilogy when it arrives on June 10th, 2022.

In a more traditional video gaming sense, the one place that you can still find many movie-based games is in the lite gaming platform of mobile. Despicable Me, Alien, Harry Potter, and even the increasingly absurd action franchise Fast & Furious have mobile games based on their movies.

The legacy of the movie-based video game is overwhelming negative, but people will look back fondly on the tie-in experience and a few gems. Of course, there’s still a chance for modern movie games to bolster the sub-genre, and there are some exciting creations on the aforementioned platforms. However, it seems unlikely that Hollywood and gaming will ever align as they once did in the modern space of high-end gaming.

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