I am currently soul-deep in development for our ongoing project so this is going to be brief. But I've been throwing around this idea for awhile now and want to play around with it aloud.
Nearly everyone has played games based on movies, or watched movies based on games, and pretty much 100% of people have agreed that both of these endeavors usually net negative outcomes. Super Mario Bros., Doom, and Street Fighter are usually the first out of anyone's mouth when this topic bubbles to the surface like a hot fart. There is a relatively tiny list of half-decent adaptations like GoldenEye, Resident Evil, and sometimes Tomb Raider depending on the audience, but for the most part adaptations are rarely taken seriously and require huge marketing budgets to overcome their earned stigma. Even the upcoming World of Warcraft film is coming to us on the waves of heavy doubt from all but the most hardcore WoW loyalists. In the late-80's/early-90's there was even a video game studio, called "LJN", that specialized in movie-to-game adaptations. Arguably they were single-handedly responsible for some of the worst movie-to-game adaptations, and flat-out worst games, of the 20th century. You can watch the Angry Video Game Nerd review nearly every single LJN game in this hilarious 2-hour collage.
My point is: I see this happening again and in full-force in 2015. Not so much games-to-movies (superheroes are sweeping the zeitgeist, and Uwe Boll is out of the picture), but the massive increase of mobile games and mobile game developers has brought with it an uptick in brand-focused projects.
For legal reasons and reasons of etiquette I will not name certain games, but rest assured your favorite brands (musicians, celebrities, movies, you name it) either already have video games developed around their brand on your mobile platform of choice, or they are currently working on one. And so far nearly every one I've played is... well... let's just say if you aren't a loyal die-hard fan of most of those brands, then the experience is forgettable.
I know there's a lot of rib-poking here but let me be clear: I am not at all against any of these endeavors. Making a video game, any video game, is extremely difficult work, and I am enthralled by every attempt I see including the attempts that I believe "missed the mark." But traditional and current adaptations relied heavily on a brand's name or likeness to carry the product, and if you notice in the good examples (of which GoldenEye is a great one) you can trade-out all of the brand's likenesses, graphics, and sound effects and still have an awesome video game. There is tremendous value in producing a memorable gaming experience beyond mere tinsel and color, and we're digging through the crust to get to the core of that experience. With each project we cut deeper and study harder to develop consistent, balanced, and focused games for brand owners and gaming audiences. We zero-in on brand connections and develop fun, memorable gaming experiences around, through, and beneath that. Weaving good gameplay into the fabric of a brand is our Number One priority.
No matter what your end-goal is, at the base of any video game must be a solid game. If there is no core gameplay experience then the game's sphere of influence will only appease the most rabidly loyal brand customers. That may be enough for you, it may not be. But if you want to go beyond that sphere then the game must be good on its own merits. If you strip away the brand skin, the interior must still work flawlessly. At the very least the skin should be interchangeable, like all those shiny decals on a perfectly-tuned race car. But at its strongest, at the highest peak of brand-gaming is a perfect interplay between what the brand embodies and the underlying gameplay experience. The game adaptations I refer to above usually miss this mark by a wide margin. We aim to bridge this expanse and bring gaming, true gaming, to brands and their audiences.
Stay tuned for more from SynerSteel and check out the work of my colleagues!