When it comes to comic book characters, you can’t get much bigger than Batman. He’s been on television (in one animated series or another) since 1992, his last three movies have grossed $2.2 billion worldwide and there are currently 13 “Batman Family” comics in publication. Oh, and his public figure page on Facebook has 5.7 million Likes. So why isn’t there a Facebook game starring the Dark Knight?
Despite his widespread popularity and marketing power, the Caped Crusader has been notably absent on both social and mobile platforms. The only game to show up on in the immediate search results on Facebook is what appears to be a clone of the Flash title Batman: Gotham City Rush. Meanwhile, the only recent Batman games on iOS are Batman: Arkham City Lockdown (a tie-in for October 2011′s AAA game, Batman: Arkham City) and Gameloft’s licensed version of The Dark Knight Rises. User reviews of these reveal similar experiences: Despite very strong artwork and presentation, there’s a number of complaints about shallow/buggy gameplay.
Superman hasn’t fared any better. In spite of his popularity and next summer’s film, Man of Steel, he doesn’t have much of a presence on Facebook either. The only game showing up in iTunes searches is Chillingo’s eponymous Superman (which launched in November 2011); the majority of reviews we’ve seen note that the game is fun, but nothing noteworthy thanks to its shallow plotline and mechanics.
It’s not like DC hasn’t had an opportunity to leverage a social game based on the DC Universe in a timely manner. The Dark Knight Rises was one of the most anticipated sequels of all time when it came out in July, but the only game treatment it received was an advergame called The Fire Rises; the title used Facebook Connect to login, but used the movie’s IP so little that it was nearly impossible to tell it was a Batman game.
By contrast, Disney-owned Marvel Comics has been hitting home runs in the social games scene. Marvel: Avengers Alliance stormed up our weekly gainer charts thanks to all the marketing it received from this summer’s The Avengers film (which is now the No. 3 grossing movie, worldwide). Likewise, we’ve gotten a preview of what the company is planning to do on mobile devices and we’re very excited about what’s coming in the near future.
DC’s vaults are filled to the brim with iconic characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, not to mention countless others. Characters like these are arguably more prevalent in pop culture than Marvel’s own big names — including Spider-Man.
So why isn’t DC jumping onto the social/mobile bandwagon? There are a number of possibilities, but the biggest is probably the fact that DC’s got a mixed success rate when it comes to video games. In spite of some major successes lately, DC is still sporting some pretty ugly black eyes from its previous video game efforts. In fact, three DC titles often wind up on sites’ “worst games ever made” lists: Superman 64, Batman: Dark Tomorrow and Superman Returns. Now that DC’s starting to get a reputation for great games thanks to Batman: Arkham Asylum, DC Universe Online and Batman: Arkham City (not to mention all the excitement currently being stirred up thanks to Injustice: Gods Among Us), developing high quality social and/or mobile titles seems like a no-brainer.
Back in 2010, Warner Bros. announced its Montreal studio would be focused on making lower budget social and mobile games. Why the company hasn’t decided to let casual gamers live out their comic book fantasies is, honestly, mind-boggling. Not only would games like these be dreams come true for most comic fans, they’d also likely be a license for Warner Bros. to print a near-limitless stream of money.
After all, if there’s one thing Bruce Wayne knows a lot about, it’s making lots of money. Well, that and fighting crime.