On James Bond Video Games

At work I receive a magazine weekly in the mail, VB: Video Business, a trade magazine related to goings-on in the video and DVD market. I enjoy reading the magazine, though it’s not particularly relevant to my business; I just like knowing what’s on the DVD release horizon and what’s going on in the DVD industry. :)

The latest issue, the May 8th issue, had a sidebar on the James Bond video game franchise. Since I’ve played a number of Bond games in my time and I’m a fan of the character, the films, and the franchise, this sidebar was of much interest to me.

James Bond has switched sides in the vidgame world. In a major shift, MGM and Electronic Arts have ended their deal for the superspy, one of the most popular and profitable licenses in the vidgame biz, four years before it was skedded to end. Lion has signed a new deal with game publisher Activision that extends through 2014 and is worth around $50 million, according to insiders. First Bond game from Activision is expected to be a tie-in to the film after Casino Royale. Publisher also has the rights to make Bond games not connected to new films.

This paragraph oversells EA’s Bond games–they may have been profitable, but the sales on the Bond games have always been somewhat lackluster, due in part to poorly conceived game design, from levels to gameplay. EA’s Bond games have been adequate at best, right from the very beginnings with Tomorrow Never Dies and 007 Racing. From Russia, With Love, my personal favorite Bond film, was an absolute waste as a Bond game. GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, the villains game, had some interesting ideas–what if you’re working for a Bond supervillain instead of MI-6–but it was marred by a nonsensical storyline; it might have been better if the game had had something to do with the film GoldenEye, but instead of playing as Bond the player could be Alec Trevelyan, the rogue MI-6 agent portrayed by Sean Bean.

Can Activision do better by Bond? Well, it’s hard to see how they could do worse. Different developers, different ideas. We’ll see what happens.

The sidebar ends with a little bit on Superman Returns:

Warner and EA have delayed the Superman Returns game from the theatrical release date in June to the DVD release this fall over concerns that the game’s quality wouldn’t be high enough. Publisher and studio hope that the quality jump will ultimately boost sales, even though game won’t take advantage of the huge awareness from the Superman Returns theatrical release.

This surprises me. EA had a Batman Begins game out last year to coincide with the film’s release. Hell, they had a Catwoman game out simultaneous with that film’s release. Superman hasn’t had the best track record when it comes to games–the less said about Superman 64, the Nintendo 64 game, the better. But if they feel that a delayed release timed to the DVD release will make for a better game, I hope the financial gamble is worth the wait.

2 thoughts on “On James Bond Video Games

  1. Activision holds minor promise if they put Raven Software to work on Bond. Otherwise, I don’t hold out much hope.

    While the games you cite are all crap, you overlook three of the other four. The World is Not Enough, while never more popular than GoldenEye, was certainly a better game both single player and multiplayer. (Two words: sticky grenades. :D) Agent Under Fire and Nightfire, while not the significant leap ahead that TWINE was, continued to offer good gameplay on the then-next-gen consoles.

    (Of course, Everything or Nothing and its unwieldly third-person controls belongs on your “adequate at best” list. :p)

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