Movies and video games have long been one-sided relationships, often entailing one party (moviemaker) offering captivating experiences that rivet audiences and the other (gamemaker) spouting cringe-worthy lines between a series of explosions.
While budgets and ridiculously slim production schedules have hurt licensed games tied to movies in the past, video game enthusiasts can expect more hits like The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay and GoldenEye 007 to deliver satisfying gameplay in the future.
A little background: Licensed games are based on an existing property, such as a movie. They have to fill many more hours of gameplay than the original product's screen time and sometimes mix genres of games to get the job done. Budgets often are slim, since much of the money goes to purchase the license to use the title, and production time is frequently limited. All this leads to quality complaints and charges that the games are often mediocre.
Licensed video games have suffered from compacted budgets and small production windows, as the developers have often been tasked with releasing their work in time to float on the surge of the blockbuster movies that birth the tie-in titles.
The budgets for licensed video games are slim themselves. It's the budget for development of those games that gets cut after publishers guarantee a set amount of revenue to the licensing parties, according to John Blackburn, president of Disney's Avalanche Software.
"That's going to be right off the top ... a minimum guarantee," Blackburn stated in a 2013 interview. "Because of the way those contracts work, it's more expensive to make those games. So a lot of the time, the development budgets go down because of that."
As the video games industry continues to grow, the film industry is increasingly giving software publishers and developers the freedom necessary to create titles that do justice to the licenses.
In the case of Alien Isolation, the third try with Fox' Alien license was the charm. Alien: Colonial Marines was a flop that resulted in a huge legal mess, but developer Creative Assembly's go at the Alien license saw the creation of a game that did what great games do -- it explored a new formula, in which gamers play hide-and-seek with H.R. Giger's nightmarish creation.
Another sign that things have changed is the success of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, a game created by a Warner Bros. subsidiary and based on licenses held by the studio. Like Alien Isolation, the Shadow of Mordor stays within the Lord of the Rings universe without clinging to the film series' script.
Flung-around grabs for cash aren't going away anytime soon, not with the mobile gaming industry thriving. It's now more affordable than ever for licensed video games to be developed and released alongside summer blockbusters, but there's still reason to believe the latest Alien title isn't an isolated case and other LOTR games will burn bright within Mordor's shadow.
Warner Bros. is preparing for another outing with one of its licenses: Mad Max. And Electronic Arts, holder of Disney's Star Wars license, is hopefully giving Dice the time and resources to make Star Wars: Battlefront as entertaining as the game's first trailer looked.