Gearbox Software has repeatedly proven itself adept at picking up long-delayed and abandoned game licenses in order to postpone them further and claim the credit for the work on others while all of its talent is poured into its smash-hit Borderlands series. But is Gearbox really flexing all of its ruinous muscle?
After the ill-advised release of the patchwork disaster that was Duke Nukem Forever, followed by the still-denied revelations that all of the years it took to get Aliens: Colonial Marines on shelves were spent farming the game out and possibly misappropriating funds, it makes perfect sense that Gearbox Software’s recent acquisition of cult RTS property Homeworld was met with a fair amount of groaning and concern from fans of the original games. Given the power of the Pitchford Touch, Randy Pitchford’s uncanny ability to doom any property he claims to “love” or “care a lot about” to a future release that is mediocre at best and utter rubbish more often than not, the prospects of any licenses surviving acquisition by Gearbox in a recognizable (or even playable) form are pretty slim.
With this in mind, I asked around the VGU.TV offices to find out what properties, both video game and otherwise, would prove the most interesting should they ever fall victim to the Pitchford Touch. The reasoning behind each is mostly mine, so those who feel I’m being too harsh can feel free to lay their crosshairs on me. Without further ado, here are the top licenses Gearbox Software could acquire and ruin.
Obvious things first, it would make sense if the company that charged full price for a terrible Aliens game (and also published a great one put together by WayForward, the DS sleeper Aliens: Infestation) also picked up the franchise’s sister license and hired the lowest bidder to make a Predator game. The last we saw a Predator or Predators in a game of their own, aside from mobile and iOS titles, was 2005′s Predator: Concrete Jungle on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Concrete Jungle was critically acclaimed as a steaming pile with terrible controls and gameplay, but as was proven by Colonial Marines’ surpassing the crap factor of Rebellion’s 2010 Aliens vs Predator, Gearbox could easily be trusted to find someone to make a new Predator game even worse than its most recent predecessor.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Despite the perennial love the heroes in the half-shell seem to enjoy, with new comic, animated, and even live action iterations cropping up every few years, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have fared less well on the video game front. Following an awful initial outing on the NES, TMNT peaked relatively early with the 1989 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game and its follow-up cabinet, Turtles In Time. Given the open arms with which an authentic Xbox Live Arcade re-release of the former was greeted in 2007 and the widespread derision an HD remake of the latter received in 2009, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles embody a video game bed that is just begging to be supremely and ultimately shat upon by Gearbox.
While the science fiction series Farscape has already seen a godawful Windows game tied into it, this much-beloved property has lain dormant enough in the wake of its premature cancellation, fan-driven resurrection/conclusion, and the end of its follow-up comic series to warrant dragging out and kicking around. As with both Aliens and Duke Nukem, Farscape features a rich, well-established canon that just begs to be mistreated. Given the abrupt nature of the series’ original cancellation, Gearbox’s formula of lofty promises followed by a huge letdown could prove just the thing Farscape fans expect, if not what they want or need.
Nintendo has already proven their willingness to hand the batons of some of its most time-honored franchises to other companies in attempts to breathe new life into properties it feels need a new perspective. This approach led to the godawful nightmare that was Team Ninja’s Metroid: Other M, which would be a tough legacy of trash for Gearbox to live up to. However, Retro Studios’ amazing first-person take on Samus Aran in the Metroid Prime trilogy gave us not one, but three great Metroid games that weren’t entirely first-party Nintendo projects. This means Gearbox would have at least two games for which it could suckle Nintendo’s teat and with which it could eventually get around to insulting fans in order to return the franchise to quality equilibrium. As an additional upside, farming a couple of Metroids out to secondary studios while being contracted by Nintendo to make them would make Gearbox Software the progenitors of some weird sort of game-ception. If people are still making Inception references in another nine years, anyway, as that’s likely how long it would take for the first of the two games to come out.
With a feature film, two direct-to-DVD specials, three TV series, and an animated series under its belt, the world(s) of Stargate is (are) ripe for the ruining. A few attempts have already been made at Stargate video games, but none have been high-profile enough to be particularly disappointing. In an interesting parallel to the disaster that Aliens: Colonial Marines became, there are not one, but two cancelled Stargate games whose assets are just begging to be chewed up and vomited out in some unrecognizable format down the line. A Gearbox “revival” of either Stargate SG-1: The Alliance or Stargate Worlds may need to wait to see how Arkalis Interactive’s Stargate SG-1: Unleashed mobile game does, but Colonial Marines has shown that there would be little to no hurry should such a project be undertaken.
Beyond Good & Evil
Despite a teaser trailer and on-again, off-again promises from Michel Ancel that a sequel will happen if you buy enough of whatever not-Beyond-Good-&-Evil he’s working on, Beyond Good & Evil 2 remains in development limbo and it’s apparent that even Ubisoft may not have a clue as to what’s going on with the game or the franchise. Who better to swoop in and barf such an anticipated franchise revival into the mouths of hungry fans than Randy Pitchford? Sure, it may end up in a form far removed from its preceding game depending on who works on it, perhaps as a real-time strategic puzzler or a dating sim with shmup elements, but fans may actually appreciate even that kind of garbage were it to happen. At least they’d finally get a game that’s already been dangled like a carrot in front of Beyond Good & Evil fans for five years thus far.
In spite of seeing a proper wrap-up season, fans of the science fiction series Fringe are still stinging from the cancellation of this J.J.-Abrams-created favorite. Fringe’s integral element of parallel universes opens a whole new world of canon abuse that wouldn’t even require Gearbox to have a character to brush off inconsistencies, a la the inexplicable survival of Hicks in Aliens: Colonial Marines. This is an easy one, Randy; best hurry up before the cancellation wound closes and you can’t pour salt into it.
Insert LucasArts Classic In Limbo Here
Disney’s recent guillotining of LucasArts has left all sorts of classics in limbo when it comes to possible revivals. While most of the clamoring (including our own) following LucasArts’ dissolution has surrounded various Star Wars games, the studio had plenty of other legendary franchises just waiting to once again see the light of day. The Monkey Island games have already seen some solid remakes care of Telltale Games, but Loom, Grim Fandango, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Full Throttle, Zak McKracken, and Maniac Mansion are just a few of the games with cult followings that would love to be let down by the Pitchford Touch ruining their beloved classics. Alternatively, Gearbox could take some inspiration from its workhorse TimeGate’s history with the mediocre shooter Section 8 and inexplicably resurrect the equally “meh” inspiring Fracture, should the studios formerly known as Day One be willing to part with the property.
If there are any fans who just can’t be kicked around enough, it’s the Browncoats. Devotees of Joss Whedon’s space western opus have been diddled repeatedly, from Fox’s terrible time slotting of the show’s initial airing, to its premature cancellation, and Whedon himself having to “Joss things up” by killing off beloved characters in the follow-up film Serenity… yeah, it’s been a rough ride. The kind that should really have involved lubrication. What better way to keep the fires of fandom hell burning by churning out an awful game experience? Hell, there’s already a Firefly MMO in the works that’s in development hell due to lack of funding, which seems like it’d be right up Gearbox’s alley. Of course, this would require them to somehow con 21st Century Fox into giving them money again, and after Aliens: Colonial Marines, that seems fairly unlikely.
When it comes to games that are long overdue for a proper revisitation, Pong is easily at the top of the list. Despite re-release upon re-release and clone upon clone, the only proper update to this universally recognizable tennis simulator came to us in the original PlayStation days, in the form of Pong: The Next Level. Taking into consideration Atari U.S.’s filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy this January, the third time in its long life the company’s been in dire financial straits, it’s easy to see that if a terrible Pong reboot is going to happen, now is the time.