Before we move on to the next big show here at Comics Beat, I wanted to talk a little about the E3 2015 that was and the shape of two industries post show.
E3 2015 is done. Now the hard part of waiting for everything we saw to be in our actual hands begins. No wait, Arkham Knight comes out Tuesday. I happen to agree with what popular gaming site Kotaku said about this year’s show. Sure in the moment, you can’t help but feel anything except excitement for the future. Then shortly after the show when I walked down Figueroa and saw the giant Batman banner. It suddenly dawned on me, I’m actually glad it’s over cause I get to play that next week. We knew Halo and Fallout would be coming this year, but every surprise we saw seemed to be for a much later date. In a world of bacon wrapped pizzas, you don’t know if you have that kind of time.
On Monday, I gave the overall E3 victory to Xbox. Once Tuesday rolled around and we saw longer versions of what Sony showed during their press event; the victory was still the same but the margin by which Microsoft came out victorious was smaller. “We won’t charge you to play the games you already own”, backwards compatibly was the announcement of the show and such a consumer friendly move. It’s a jab directly at Sony that states Microsoft’s intent. It might not be the top feature you look for in a console, but it’s certainly one worth putting in bold on the box. While it remains to roll out, if Xbox can pull off free backwards compatibility it gains them back so much good will they lost early on. For all I love about PlayStation including the Vita and PS Plus, its entire ecosystem is like the newer Terminator movies they just don’t speak to each other very well and that leaves an opening for Xbox.
What happens post show, well Sony has a chance that Microsoft won’t. Because of the punches that PlayStation took this time around, they’ll have another huge PlayStation Experience event like they did in Las Vegas. It’ll be the opportunity for them to regroup and sell fans on Morpheus, perhaps also backtrack on the PS Now. The event’s crowd will undoubtedly be biased in favor of Sony, so much so that even if PlayStation literally admitted charging their customers to stream old games they already own was a mistake, it would still be met with thunderous applause that drowns out media criticism. It’ll also be the point where Sony can either cancel Morpheus or drop a focused presentation that ends with major price news. With multiple VR headsets scheduled to come out in 2016, Sony has to do something to ensure the early adopters will be on their side. Let’s face it, this unproven technology doesn’t leave financial room for gamers to have multiple headsets. Just like Highlander, “there can only be one”… well in our homes anyway.
That’s the thought of the overall show. Now I want to talk about what we’re all about here… comics! Mostly how they relate to the gaming industry after E3. The volume and direction of how comic books traverse the world of gaming speaks to the state of both mediums. One thing that particularly stuck out to me was how many games are being licensed by comics publishers as opposed to video games licensing comics. Such a gap leaves opportunity for comics publishers to make better inroads with gaming audiences.
Look at all the books, either recently in stores or coming soon, that are based on video games. Halo: Escalation, Tomb Raider, Plants Vs Zombies, Mirror’s Edge: Exordium, Skylanders, Metal Gear and Persona 4 are just some that come to mind. Most of those titles are the result of deals where Marvel or any comics publisher approach studios with hopes of producing a book or two based on the most popular games. And why wouldn’t they, gaming has the largest captive young audience of any medium. It would almost be foolish not to.
There’s also a flip side to that coin. Lately, most video game publishers aren’t in a hurry to license comics. Major exceptions are becoming more rare these days. Batman: Arkham Asylum was the first true quality Batman comic game. It came at a critical time when WB needed to capitalize on comics. We got Watchmen a few years after getting the taste of Superman Returns out of our mouths, but WB was on it’s way to producing a bad Green Lantern movie. With some of their major properties coming to an end in film, WB needed comics to be consistently viable in other places. Their game’s division was a perfect catalyst for something big and they had the right studio in Rocksteady. The rest is Arkham history.
Can you remember a big comic book based game that didn’t come from the in-house parent company? Probably the best, most recent example would be Telltale Games The Walking Dead. Telltale is a studio with a rich licensed game library like Sam & Max and Back to the Future to name a few, but they weren’t on the map of mainstream media. That attention didn’t come till they crafted one of the best Walking Dead stories ever with Lee and Clementine. At this year’s E3 they announced a new project based in the comic book world of Walking Dead which features fan favorite character Michonne. Telltale themselves are a great developer and made fantastic story driven games before Kirkman, but I don’t believe they’d be where they are today without Walking Dead.
Games carry a similar curse to film. Just because a studio taps a property doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll ever get to play that game. Some time ago there was talk of Aspen Comics’ Fathom being a game but that never happened and even though 2K’s partnership with Top Cow gave us back-to-back games based on The Darkness; the second ended on a cliffhanger that left us wanting a third we’ll never see.
When you look at things objectively, the video game industry certainly doesn’t need comics. It’s emerged as the dominant form of entertainment and rightfully so. Comics just can’t match that level of volume sales and distribution, but there is room to grow through gaming. It just needs the flow to change. Marvel and DC didn’t accomplish this on the level it intended to with film. Moviegoers who don’t read comics are older and less likely to go from the theater to the comic shop. The immersive nature of gaming is a better primer for this in its younger audience. Sure the Arkham and Injustice books do well because their known properties, but there’s a significant percentage of their buyers that never picked up a comic book until they saw those titles and were easily accessible through digital platform.
Yes, it’s easier said than done but comic creators need to focus less on getting that movie deal and more on who would make a kick-ass game out of my comic. You could argue that only the major books from the big two have a chance at crossing into games, but then how you you explain The Wolf Among Us based on Fables or The Darkness. Both of those games are stellar examples of what could be accomplished with properties that aren’t part of the mainstream.
I know that neither industry is as simple as I just made it seem, and sure there’s tons of legal meetings people must have behind close doors before something can even get off the ground. We just aren’t as in the dark as we think. One of the benefits of the social media age is having access to the people who make your favorite games. Part of why more comics aren’t games is because we don’t tweet out things such as “hey I loved this game, and this comic would be awesome in that style” enough. Most of Image Comics line up would be awesome in gaming. I love what Dark Horse Comics did with The Last of Us, but I think a Hellboy game based on the comics and made by Ninja Theory would be a winner.
In order to achieve the growth in comics readership we’d all love to see; gamers have to be exposed to Superman (better than before), Saga, and even Archie. Bringing games over to comics isn’t a bad start, but the flows can’t be as lopsided as in recent years. Why is Batman: Arkham Knight the only, based on a comic book, blockbuster game coming out this year. The goal should be at least two or three a year. Comic industry, instead of saying hey let us make a comic based on Mortal Kombat, it’s time to say have you thought about making a game based on our Teen Titans book!
If you’ve read through this then thanks and you definitely deserve a prize. So let’s giveaway a bunch of E3 stuff first person that follows @Comicsbeat on instagram and tags us in a shot of their favorite comic book game wins this and a few other pieces from E3 and it includes a shirt given away by the folks at Batman: Arkham Knight. If you aren’t on instagram, then follow and tweet the same thing at me.