The following is an essay I wrote for a university course in 2017. I just re-discovered it while going through some old files and thought I’d post it for kicks and giggles. I know the MLA format is weird in a blog post–I’ll probably reformat and properly edit it at some point.
Since video game systems became capable of crudely representing characters on screen, companies have been putting their products and characters into them. It seemed like a logical extension of product placement in television—a practice almost as old as the medium itself. Some games based on characters from movies have been wildly successful, and indeed, Goldeneye 64 proved that first person shooters could be seriously successful on home video game consoles. For every successful adaptation of a licensed property however, there are a multitude of failures. In general, the games are shoddy, rushed jobs, that virtually no care was put into.
In general, equally as little attention is put into their release as is put into development. These titles slip away into obscurity, but they are worth digging up (sometimes literally) because there are lessons to be learned from the idiotic mistakes of the past. A licensed property won’t necessarily be bad because it is licensed, but they are often characterized by low budgets and low effort, and there is a limit to how tolerant a customer will be, even if the property is well known and well loved. Which they aren’t even always.
Though many licensed games largely slip under the radar (see every Shrek game ever made), there a few that have reached the status of legend in the gaming community. Games like Superman 64, frequently called one of the worst titles for the Nintendo 64, and occasionally the worst of all time (Totilo). Superman 64 is so poor in quality and so hard to play that the Attract Screen features a demo video of someone—no doubt someone who worked on the creation of the game—trying and failing to complete the first level. This game has been talked about enough though. So too has E.T., a game for the Atari 2600 which Atari so regretted making that they dug a hole in a desert in New Mexico, and buried all remaining copies in existence (Schreier).
What will be discussed in this investigation are games which have fallen into obscurity, and a few which are well known, but have more history behind them than a glance would reveal.