Monday, May 20, 2013

Doing Cool Things with IP: Warner Bros. / DC

I'm a big fan of intellectual property owners doing cool and unexpected things with properties. And I'm a firm believer that quality offerings will make better money than cast-off, shovelware schlock.

Even ignoring revenue, quality products elevate brands, and poor treatments (even those that are "free money for license holders") do brand damage.

Those who know me (and longtime followers) know I'm a comic book fan. And while that's primarily (hugely) on the Marvel side of the house, I've got a rich and sentimental history with DC Comics, too. That includes an admiration for creatives like Neal Adams and Denny O'Neil, to their treatment of Seventies-Era Batman, and characters like Green Lantern (Hal Jordan, though) and the Barry Allen incarnation of The Flash. And Christopher Reeve Superman (much less so the Superman Returns take). And the Michael Keaton Batman. And Christoper Nolan's take on The Dark Knight franchise. And Bruce Timm animated and illustrated everything.

So, marry quality game products with top-shelf DC properties, atypical game treatments, and the challenge to avoid the stereotypical comic book bad-game stigma, and you give me a bizdev/game development/comic book buzz.

And right now, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (WBIE) has the potential to knock it out of the park on this front.

With Arkham Aslyum and Arkham City, WBIE already showed (twice) a triple-A comic book game can be made again.

They've made hay with the LEGO franchise, and despite some problems with a few mechanics (like flight), LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is a solid, evolutionary, franchise fan-service vehicle.

DC Universe Online continues to crank along, with a non-trivial uptick (and non-trivial expansion releases) since going free-to-play.

And making up for Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (an abbreviated, feature-short, and lesser treatment of both franchises), Injustice: Gods Among Us is a genuine, fleshed-out fighter that took NPD's top spot in last month's April charts (genre titles and fighting titles struggle to get there, and Injustice is both). It's a great fan-service treasure trove, and I expect the DLC to continue and accelerate that trend.

Then there's a handheld metroidvania treatment of the Batman: Arkham franchise (Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate), at the same time Warner Brothers Montreal is working on Batman: Arkham Origins for the big consoles.

WBIE has also announced Infinite Crisis, an honest-to-goodness  massive online battle arena game. A DC Comics MOBA, for crying out loud.

And then they went and announced Scribblenauts Unmasked, taking 5th Cell's linguistic puzzler into the DC Universe. Seriously.

What's next? A Don't Starve treatment staring Vandal Savage?

(I would so play that.)

Other comic book and IP rich-legacy back-catalog holders: What's your move?