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The Top 20 Underutilized Licenses

April 24, 2008 Article Start Page 1 of 20 Next

Since licensed gaming seems bigger than ever these days, Gamasutra's editors felt - somewhat flippantly - that publishers might need some help picking through the pop culture landscape for un-optioned properties that have the potential to become great games (as well as a few existing game franchises in desperate need of a comeback).

Our criteria for putting together this article - with input from all Gamasutra staffers - was a mixture of gut feeling and impassioned argument; unscientific, to be sure, but rather than functioning as a guide to the 20 and only 20 licenses that could or should be explored, it's much more of a thought experiment into avenues many might not have considered.

Sure, judging by the history of licensed games, many of these ideas would probably be awful if they were actually made. On the other hand, there's nothing that suggests that given the right amount of time and budget that these games couldn't sing: just think about it.

And think about it is what we want you to do. This is not a realistic list, to be sure. It also serves as an exercise in examining how these licenses could be reborn or successfully imagined in today's market.

And it's not just about reawakening fallow game franchises -- inside, you'll find sports, books, movies and comics that haven't gotten the treatment they deserve, as well. And if you have licenses to add to this list, please comment on the feature below. Onward:

1. Kid Chameleon

The franchise:
In the early '90s heyday of the platformer, Sega's Kid Chameleon had one ace up its sleeve to differentiate itself from the rest of the over-saturated market -- pure level selection. Sure, each of the game's advertised hundreds of levels may have been short and relatively basic, but in a time when many young players had a limited gaming budget, quantity often mattered more than quality.

Kid Chameleon's other big conceit was a slew of hats that gave the human protagonist a variety of exciting super powers. The game hasn't seen a sequel since its initial 1992 release, though recent availability on Wii's Virtual Console means today's snot-nosed punk kids at least have a chance of knowing who the heck he is.

The remake: With user-created content being all the rage in upcoming games like Little Big Planet and Spore, a Kid Chameleon remake could ride the crest of this trend. The new version would still have hundreds of levels, except this time around the variety would be provided by the player base.

Creating a wide variety of building blocks and an intuitive level-building interface would be key, but once that's in place an eager crop of would-be level designers should crop up to take advantage of what would essentially be a choose-your-own-platformer game. Add in the ability to easily share levels and play online, and you've got a game with essentially endless replay value.

Spin-off potential: The Kid's wide variety of hat-based power-ups would pave the way for a line of real-life hats lining the walls of Hot Topics across the country. Who knows -- if the game is popular enough, maybe the white shirt, jeans and leather jacket look sported on the game's box will come back into style.

Article Start Page 1 of 20 Next

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Kenneth Stojevich
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I would like to point out there is in fact a Curling game for the DS. Not in the US mind you, but it exists. Minna no Curling which has the Japanese Curling Association's stamp of approval on it. Actually a fun game I might add.

Kale Menges
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There is also a curling-style mini game in both Super Mario 64 DS and New Super Mario Bros....

On the other hand, I don't agree with any of this list's references to "reality TV" productions. And could you really make Shaun of the Dead without getting sued? Capcom's already having enough problems with George Romero as it is....

Joris Verschoor
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Actually, curling is the 4th(?) game in Konami's Hyper Olympics(?) on the MSX.

Tom Newman
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Okay... I have better ideas, but here are a few "giveaways"...

Big Lebowski Bowling - would have to be a killer bowling sim, but the charachters and teams are pretty much laid out in the film. Would have to liscense Gypsy King's version of Hotel California for the theme music.

Hellraiser- survival horror with puzzle boxes and intricate ways to cause pain.

Auto-Duel- an update to the Steve Jackson pencil and paper game and to the C64 port. Half RPG, half Twisted Metal where you could drive city to city and compete with people online in the arena after battling them on the road like Road Rage.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre- an update to the Atari2600 game where you play as Leatherface. TCM lends itself to more structure than other slasher films as Leatherface's family has control of his actions making it easier for a designer to structure.

Gonzo:The Game- You play as Hunter S. Thompson, you are given assignments and your goal is to warp your view of reality in the most extreme way you can while still making deadlines and meeting expense budgets.

Steven Birkes
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A good series of books for translation into interactive form would be S.M. Stirling's Dies The Fire series. One of the nice things about it is that it wouldn't really have to be based on the story told in the books since The Change (an event that causes electricity, gun powder, and most other technologies to stop working in the way we currently understand/expect) was a worldwide phenomenon. A games story could be set anywhere and at the time of the change or even years later.

Another good series would be the Chronicles of the Shadow War by Chris Claremont and George Lucas (based on his movie Willow). There are a lot of interesting characters and locations in these books that would make for a good action rpg type game.

Roberto Alfonso
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A Nintendo DS "Choose Your Own Adventure" series of games, with cutscenes after every option, would be wonderful. In fact, there is already homebrew with similar characteristics. It is not different from existing games like Phoenix Wright, Hotel Dusk, etc. However, instead of losing time trying to figure out what to do next, you are given the options.

Raphael Santos
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Rock'n'Roll Racing online game, featuring death race circuits, arenas and team objective modes (capture the flag, king of the hill...)

something like Guild Wars PvP, where players could unlock weapons and items for their vehicles with earned experience

Bryson Whiteman
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I haven't read the whole article but this is a good topic! I was glad to see that racquetball was mentioned on the 3rd page.

I was taking a racquetball class back when my friends and I were really into Virtua Tennis on Dreamcast. I thought it'd be awesome if Sega made a racquetball game -- so I could relive the thrill of the sport on my couch at home, of course. I tried thinking about how it'd work but it seemed like a difficult game to translate because of the ability to play off of the ceiling and back wall.

Later I discovered that Sega released Cosmic Smash for Dreamcast in Japan, which seemed pretty damned close to a racquetball game. But played more like a one of the Virtua Tennis challenges with visuals like Rez.

As bootleg as it may be, I'm interested in checking out Street Racquetball to see how they executed it.

Brian Canary
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Please stay the hell away from Watchmen, and for the love of God keep Cryptic away from any other superhero franchise ever again.

David Padron
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If I had to choose one car/racing game to come back it'd be Death Rally.

Maurício Gomes
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A team on my university (Anhembi Morumbi) made a demo based on Black Tower, unfortunally the could only implement two "half-done" levels, on in china and one in the western, but it was at least sweet to see the interface changing between the worlds, and the gourgeous view of the dark tower itself.

Rose Aloseth
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Speaking of British authors, how about another (and better) Discworld game based on the books of Terry Pratchett? The world has grown much deepr since Color of Magic, branching into skewed mythology and satire. I would love to see a collaboration with Pratchett that includes his best characters and unique sense of humor.

Alexander Filipowski
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The "Groundhog Day" scenario has been used in a few games. One notable one is "Grim Grimoire" on the Playstation 2.

Christine Chan
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I would love to see George Orwell's 1984 be translated into a walk-around adventure game in the style of Myst where the sound effects and the drab environment really heightens the awful dystopia environment. In later parts it could turn into a 'sneak' game like Thief...

Speaking of Alan Moore comics, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen would make a pretty awesome team battle game like X-men Legends or something.

I agree with Rose Aloseth regarding the Discworld series. The series is just waiting for a great walk around adventure game and imagine if it'll look like 'Curse of Monkey Island!' it'll be heaps of fun!

Andrew norton
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This is quite an inspiring article to read. Your choices are both interesting, not that obivious. This is one of those articles which you need to revisit to be inspired by.

Henrique Ribas
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Out of This World

Flashback: The Quest for Identity


The Lost Vikings


Metal Warriors

Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf

Zombies Ate My Neighbors

The games speaks for themselves.

Victor Bunn
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I NEVER understood why capcom didn't release a new powerstone on Wii prior to Brawl. Total missed opportunity there considering how popular Melee was on GC. It's was a total no brainer decision that could have revived an IP that has been overlooked for too long. Capcom - FAIL

@Ribas...Out of this World and Flashback. Great choices

Jonathan Coster
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The Dark Tower series is an excellent choice, you could tell a good story with the resources available today. How you handle the inner dialogue you get in books is another thing.

Daniel Milano
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Choose Your Own Adventure actually did something recently with their license, an interactive movie where you pick what happens next in the story. No forced game play, just choices like the books. It actually works better as a DVD than a game.

Tyler Doak
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My mom once said she'd like to see an LDS game where you try and get into the different levels of heaven.

Eric Ruck
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Somebody absolutely needs to revive Marine Boy. I think this would make a fantastic game. If I don't get to work on it, I'll be the first in line to preorder.

Anthony Lovell
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A Dark Tower action game? I dont think that would fly very well with fans of the books. If any developer should get that licence, it should be Cyan, for a Myst like adventure for the Dark Tower series with light action elements. If it had to be an action game (Like Stephen King was drunk and had amnesia and his hand could only write his name on short black lines) The only developer that I can see doing it any justice is Valve. Honestly though, the books werent action oriented, they were surreal adventures, an action game will only take away from the atmosphere of survival, horror, and cultist magic.

James Buchanan
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The first of my list's Underutilized Licenses is Fringeworthy, by Tri Tac Games. First published in 1982, Fringeworthy is a combination of Startgate and Sliders. A new paper and pen edition, that adds much back story to the game, should be published in the winter of 2008.

The second of my list's Underutilized Licenses is Brave Soul, a an unusual combination of the role-playing game and dating sim genres.

An updated and Yuri edition of Bave Soul, a game that never made it past the talking stage, would something I would love to see developed.

The third and last franchise in my list of Underutilized Licenses is Tékumel, a fantasy world created by Professor Muhammad Abd-el-Rahman Barker. This is a very cool world and one that could be linked with the Fringeworthy franchise.

John Giors
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Ever since I saw Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits in my youth, I thought it would make a great game.