The Salty Gamer – Building Off Successful Franchises

Howdy folks. Another rage filled rant is on its way from The Salty Gamer. This edition proudly brought to you by development companies that think an existing franchise or Intellectual Property (IP) can replace good design or writing. Here we go again.

For what it’s worth, card games are most at fault for this terrible crime only because successful franchises often start as films, TV shows or other visual media. This doesn’t mean that the scenario can’t be turned on its head and a shitty movie come from a renowned card or video game, as I’ll demonstrate shortly.

So what are we talking about here, really? Lately there have been a slew of God-awful card games released that rely on the brand name behind them to get them off the ground. Most of these fizzle and die almost immediately, but not before sucking fanboy chumps dry. As an example (don’t I love those?) MetaX (pronounced Meta-Cross) is about to be released to the Australian market. The game’s first expansion is based on the DC comics universe and, from what I can see, the game plays like Top Trumps (combat) cross MTG (field layout/game procedure) cross near any Japanese TCG (life system). Couple the fact that there’s almost nothing new about it with a needlessly complex combat system (which also spills over complexity into deck construction), and you’re looking at the next big flop.

These games aren’t a problem on their own, after all not every game can be the next MTG. My problem with this system is hyping up fans for the sake of moving some product quickly, then bailing on the game for maximum profit. Feels pretty scummy to me. We’re seeing this time and time again in card games, from the numerous re-releases of the Dragonball TCG, to Final Fantasy TCG, to Weiss/Schwarz, where every fucking expansion is based on a new anime to rope in a bigger crowd of gullible fans.

We’re on a pop culture website, so let’s take a look at some of the non card game offenders on my list of loathing.

The Warcraft movie was a cheap cash-in, using fan reaction as its entire marketting tool. Let’s rely on nerds that have been made fun of for the past ten years for their reluctance to emerge from their basements. That’s a solid business strategy. It’s no wonder the movie didn’t break even. Warcraft even broke the Prince of Persia’s box office record to become the highest grossing movie adaptation of a video game of all time and was still slammed by critics as having “…little evident cinematic value”. Not even the power team of Ragnar Lothbrok and Tulip O’Hare could carry that sinking ship.

Don’t even get me started on the flaming mess that is the career of one Uwe Boll. Bloodrayne, Alone in the Dark, Postal, and Far Cry are all perfect examples of what happens when someone with no investment in the community surrounding these games takes a plot, throws it in a blender with the most stilted, cliche scripts seen outside 9th grade drama class, a full litre of mixed species excrement, and claims the fetid, unlikeable outcome is a motion picture.

The Marvel vs Capcom fighting games are another perfect example of the ‘build it, and they will come’, money grubbing attitude development companies have these days. I played that game all of once, and, as Cyclops, died to a Lego figure. A fucking Lego figure! (which I found out later was a minor character from Mega Man). Sure thing guys, just jam as many fan recognisable names on a roster as possible, add seizure-causing light effects and break for lunch, you really fucking earned it. You’ve successfully created a bland, samey fighter with none of the soul or heart put into it that it deserves, especially when mashing two different franchises, on different media, with different fanbases, together.

Just about the only time I can accept that a game uses an IP as a selling point without any consideration for the source are educational games. Since these are aimed at children, they’re only really using the aesthetic as a hook to deliver learning, which is a wholly constructive use of the IP.


To sum up: Building something from an existing IP is like playing on a trampoline. If you don’t exercise commitment, care and restraint, you’re going to end up flat on your stupid face, and deservedly so. Just quit dragging loyal fans along for the ride.


Until next time
The Salty Gamer

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