In an interview on Demonews.de, Manfred Linzner of Shin'en talks about their Maya the Bee game (not yet included in Mobygames) for the GBA:
Demonews: Maya is an extraordinarily good game, with good ratings. But why the Maya licence – with a character of your own you wouldn't have scared away the hardcore gamer audience?
Linzner: On the GBA, perhaps one out of a hundred games introduces an original character. Games without a character licence will simply fail in this market. As far as we know, Iridion 3D is at this point in time the best-selling 3rd party [GBA] game which doesn't rely on any licence. [...]
Demonews: When you look at licenced games from other developers, they are far too often simple and unengaged translations without any high points. What makes Shin'en different?
Linzner: We have full control of our finances, and are thus not forced into producing our games like on an escalator belt in a factory. Typical licenced games are often made in only twelve weeks and are 100% based on ready-made engines. Naturally, that is perfect from an economic point of view, but then the quality suffers for the same reasons.[...]
I remember reading a magazine article about licenced games, comparing them to writing "the book based on the movie". Developers want to write their own games, not ride on the coattails of Pirates of the Caribbean or some Bruce Willis flop, just like any self-respecting artist. However, before reading this interview, I didn't know exactly how bad a state the market was in, though the handheld market probably is worse than the stationary console market, both because the GBA market is driven by small children and because the GBA receives a lot of unloving spin-offs from popular (original) Playstation and Xbox franchises, only remade as generic platformers with the same engine as a tie-in for a cereal brand.
Even so, we have all played some good licenced games, such as the 90s Disney licences or the highly original
Still, spin-off games have a deservedly bad reputation, yet they have made software houses such as Ocean wealthy and powerful.
Not all Disney licensed games are crap: I find it's good to keep an eye out on handheld stuff by Wayforward and Artificial Mind and Movement (or A2M). Usually, a game where the subject matter can be made into a decent game (Kim Possible, for example: secret agent + gadgets + beating up enemies + jumping over crates in the cartoon = perfect license) are worth a look, especially if it's by these companies. Vicarious Visions is another one to look out for (they did Powerpuff Girls: Him and Seek, which had a sweet pinball machine, as well as a Frogger parody where you were forced by Mojo Jojo to help him escape from jail).
A licensed handheld game can be a really good challenge, because it forces the developer to think laterally and creatively. But of course, sometimes the license can be suffocatingly restrictive.
I think it's simply because most companies are more "farming license" than really making videogames. They purely rely on the license to generate some sells.
I really think most license game should be good games... It is the time and money allowed to make the project that pushes the game in the sucking area.
At start, there is a lot of idea the developers want to put in the game to create cool gameplay experiences. But they end up most of the time doing overtime just to get it completed with 75% of their original game concept cut out on the way.
My point is company ends up "farming license" because of the incredible pressure publishers put on developers. Developers are like lemon squeezed by publishers with the benediction of the law...
In the eyes of the law, developers are just itty gritty workers.
That's wicked because besides selling it, the publisher does not do that much in the game most of the time...
On another hand, it also depend on the market, how much cash a game will generate is clearly the ruler for how much can be invested into it...
But still, i think that if the developers owned at least a part (even a tiny one) of their work that would probably clearly increase the quality of their games.
Excuse my English ;)
Frederic Bautista Wrote:
It's pure infamy that this isn't the case. I have read about people who have supplied the music for hundreds of games but still don't get even a percent of CD revenues and aren't even allowed to play their own compositions at concerts without asking their former employer for permission.