If you are a fan of comic books like us, then you are likely disappointed by the lack of good superhero games in this day and age. In this article, we want to look into why superhero games fail and perhaps understand how games like The Batman: Arkham Series and Sony’s Spider-Man have become genre-defining successes.
1. Practical Limitations
The biggest issue with superhero games failing to gain popularity is because of the fact that they are technically limited. Superheroes often have powers and abilities that are hard to implement correctly in a game. For example, The Flash can run faster than the speed of light, which allows him to time travel.
Implementing this in a game is going to take a lot of work, and it is going to consume a lot of resources, not to mention the developers would have to create two or maybe three worlds simultaneously. And if the developers were to slow him down a little, that would beat the whole purpose of playing as The Flash. This was the case with Gotham Knights, the game’s overall mission design wanted you to be stealthy, as all the characters were underpowered. Due to this stealthy design, the game became dull and repetitive.
These gameplay limitations are often why we never see video games of overpowered superheroes because restricting their abilities would make the character tedious to play. One of the reasons why the Batman: Arkham series is incredibly popular and adored by fans is because Batman, at the end of the day, is a normal human being with no superpowers.
We all have them. We hear “Superman”, we want to fly from Metropolis to Gotham in 2 seconds, we want to punch the sun. However, as we discussed above, no modern game engine can pull that off. Instead, we get Superman 64, or Superman Returns, both continue to be colossal stinkers.
Such is the case with Rocksteady’s latest game, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, which faced much backlash after a simple trailer, causing the developers to delay their game to “meet the expectations of their fans.”
On the other hand, we have Eidos Montreal’s take on Marvel’s Guardian of the Galaxy, it was a commercial success solely because it had good gameplay and a completely new story that is worth keeping up with.
3. Licensing Issues
Superhero games require licensing agreements with the owners of the intellectual property. These licenses drastically interfere with the process of creating a superhero game because these agreements are complex and expensive.
The developers and the comic book publisher or movie studios sign these agreements. As well as being expensive, these agreements often restrict how the character will be in the game, which is why most superhero games are non-canon. This means they have no impact on the original comics or the movie. Such is the case with Marvel’s Spider-Man (2018). Even though the game is based on the Spider-Man from Marvel, the game does not tie in with the Marvel Cinematic Universe or any other comic. It is a fresh take on the character.
4. Replay Value
Superhero games like Batman Arkham City are usually story-driven open-world games. You can do a lot of stuff after finishing the story, such as doing all of the Riddler challenges or completing timed challenges. Once you complete all of these challenges and side quests, you are left with nothing to do in the game. This can drastically impact the replayability of a game because once you are done with the game, there is nothing else left for you to do.
Even though many games now offer multiple endings or branching storylines, many games still focus on linear gameplay, reducing their replayability. Batman: The Telltale Series is a great example of branching storylines. It offers many endings and choices throughout your playthrough, but once you complete all of them by replaying the game, you have nothing left to do.
The tone of the game plays a major impact on how well the game is going to be. Superheroes can vary in tone, from incredibly lighthearted to all-out dark and gritty. This variation in tone can make it difficult for the developers to carefully balance it out and make a fun game without being overwhelming and true to the source material.
Another contributing factor that fails a superhero game is that superheroes are a niche genre that only appeals to fans of comic books or superhero movies. This makes it challenging for developers to attract a wider audience, especially those who are unfamiliar with the source material or the character.
6. Marketing Gimmick
Most of these superhero games are developed in order to be released coinciding with a movie of the same character. The developers often rush the development in order to release their game immediately after the release of a movie in order to cash in all the hype. Because of this, the quality of the game is subpar and dull. Here are some examples of such games:
- Batman Begins (PS2) (2005)
- Iron Man (2008)
- Thor: God of Thunder (2011)
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
In short, creating a successful superhero game can be a challenging task for many game developers because of the high expectations of fans, repetitive gameplay, tone of the character, replayability and a lack of innovation in gameplay, and last but not least, balancing the superhero’s power levels in order to make the game enjoyable. These are just a few of the many challenges the developers face when creating the ultimate superhero game. However, despite these challenges, there have been many great superhero games that have become classics, such as The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, which desperately needs a remake.
To do that, the developers must stay close to the source material, all while creating a fresh new storyline that keeps the players invested in the game. As well as innovate in terms of gameplay in order to provide a fresh experience to the player.
This was our take on why superhero games fail. If you liked our article, please consider sharing it with your friends, who might also be interested in knowing why