Movie Tie-In Games And How They Were All The Rage Back In The Day

A once abundant kind of titles; now barren.

Story Highlights

  • During the 90s and 2000s, there were many games based on movies.
  • Movie tie-ins were a quick way to profit from the hype created by movies.
  • Movie tie-In games, although endangered, are seeing a rise through recent titles.

Movie tie-in games were all the rage back in the day. Picture this, you just finished watching the critically acclaimed ‘Spider-Man 2’. As you walk out of the theatre room you can’t help but feel a void welling up inside you. “Is that it? Now what?”, you think. Not to worry as corporate America has a solution to your ailment. Introducing Spider-Man 2 for the PlayStation 2.

Traversing New York City As Spider-Man Never Felt Better |Source: eXputer
Traversing New York City As Spider-Man Never Felt Better | Source: eXputer

Spider-Man 2 is one of the more fonder examples of a movie tie-in game done right. It introduced a fluid web-swinging system, a vibrant open world, loads of quality side content, a main story that slightly separates itself from the movie it was based on, and various improvements on both combat & jank that plagued the first game.

Most importantly it gave us the infamous pizza delivery side quest with its iconic soundtrack, “Pizza Time.”

You’re welcome for that by the way, Italy. 

Hollywood’s Golden Goose 

3 of the Best Movie Tie-In Games
3 of the Best Movie Tie-In Games | Source: eXputer 

This was a recurring theme in both the 90s and 2000s. A big-budget blockbuster would be released and to capitalize on its hype a video game based on the film came out, usually somewhere after it.

There are numerous other examples where this business practice proved fruitful. “GoldenEye 007, “Disney’s Aladdin,” Peter Jackson’s King Kong,” and “Enter the Matrix” are just some of the many successful movie tie-in games. Numerous Star Wars games have also been based on the prequel and sequel films. 

GamesRadar+ made a list of movie tie-in games that you should check out.

However, these were only examples of mostly good games based on good movies. Let’s look at examples of some less fortunate souls.

Where There Is Good There Also Tends To Be Bad

The Bee Movie Game
The Bee Movie Game | Source: eXputer 

Let’s imagine a different scenario. You just saw “E.T.” and were moved to tears. You hear Atari is developing an E.T. game for its console. You buy the game, hurry home, insert the cartridge, and…the game is horrible. Terrible controls and terrible gameplay coupled with the fact that the game was developed in a record 5 weeks by a single developer, made the Extra-Terrestrial into the Extra-Terrible.

This excerpt from a LinkedIn article details the heavy losses Atari bore due to E.T.’s failure.

The game was a commercial failure due to its poor quality and difficult gameplay. Atari struggled to recover from the poor sales of E.T. and never recovered its reputation among the gaming community.”

Other such examples include; “Rambo: The Video Game”, “Dragonball Evolution”, “Batman & Robin”, “Flushed Away” and the list goes on.

Not every movie is easily transferrable to a game screen thus resulting in a lot of half-baked tie-in games. Did you know that the freaking Bee Movie has a game as well?

So What Happened To Movie Tie-In Games?

Whatever happened to games based on movies?
byu/megasean3000 ingaming

Why are there fewer movie tie-in games now than there were back then? The key phrase is investment.  Are the games able to monetize themselves enough to generate a worthwhile profit? Spider-Man 2 utilized the hype from the movie and by 2005, the game had grossed $110 million in sales in the United States.

Whereas Atari was buried in so much loss due to E.T. that they buried the remaining unsold copies in a landfill in New Mexico.

YouTube video

Movie tie-in games were expensive investments that didn’t justify the cost and risk. Coupled with the risk of flopping and Corporate Greed, these games weren’t always guaranteed a smooth takeoff.

Slicing & Dicing Through Waves Of Bad Guys As Wolverine | Source: YouTube (MKIceAndFire)
Slicing & Dicing Through Waves Of Bad Guys As Wolverine | Source: YouTube (MKIceAndFire)

In what is the opposite scenario, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a fantastic movie tie-in game that is significantly better than the movie it’s based upon. Featuring fast action and ultra-violence akin to the older God of War games, the game flew under the radar of many gamers due to the movie’s lackluster score. Thus poor performance of either the movie or the game can hurt the reputation or sales of the other.

All Hope Is Not Lost 

Popular Titles I Believe Would Make Good Games
Popular Titles I Believe Would Make Good Games

Despite the doom-bringing nature of this article, games based on movies aren’t extinct but rather endangered. Games such as World War Z, Guardians of the Galaxy, and RoboCop: Rogue City are recent entries in this dying genre.

There is also the upcoming ‘Indiana Jones and the Great Circle’ to look forward to, which is breaking new ground thanks to its unique hybrid of first-person and third-person perspectives.

These games can help usher in a new era of movie tie-in games. It can also shift the monotonous nature of seeing our beloved characters hosted as guests in fighting games or featured as skins in Fortnite or Call of Duty Warzone. Imagine a Max Payne-inspired John Wick game or a Game of Thrones tactical role-playing game similar to Fire Emblem. 

I, and many others I’m sure, would pay top dollar for a maze runner roguelike, similar to Hades with varying paths and different playstyles suited to everyone. The possibilities and potential between the marriage of cinema and games are vast.

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Najam Ul Hassan is a News Reporter on eXputer who enjoys investing hours in his favorite video game titles. When he’s not playing games, he’s practicing Journalism. He began his career on eXputer after combining his limitless love of video games and all things geek with his considerable writing experience. He has been cited numerous times by several noteworthy publications and sites such as Game Rant, Yahoo, PlayStation LifeStyle, VGC, VG247, TheGamer, among others. Experience: 2+ Years || Education: Masters in Mass Media Communication || Written 300+ News Stories.

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