Know what's a great strategy that gets a franchise recognition while at the same time ensuring that your audience will never tire of seeing the IP? Creating as many videogames as possible, and then releasing them on every applicable platform to ensure maximum market saturation. That way everyone will have a chance to buy your game, fall in love with the series, and then naturally purchase the books, watch the television show, and then buy a few pop culture t-shirts from a local Hot Topic.
Sure there's a chance that everyone will just get sick of seeing the franchise tossed around like a cheap whore, but the risks surely must be worth it, well that's what the people behind Game of Thrones are currently thinking.
Sometimes I wonder if the decision making process for some of these franchise games is more like an episode of Whitest Kids U Know rather than having a real decisive plan.
After having its first step into the gaming industry almost universally reviewed as a disappointment, it really feels like Martin should be a little more careful in backing anything that will dilute the value of incredible world he's taken years of care to build. Yet despite having one game go straight to the bargain bin, three more titles emerge ready and willing to spread the Song of Ice & Fire like a plague.
One of them at the very least looks decent, offering gamers a more intimate experience with the franchise that has promised to offer something similar to Knights of the Old Republic, with lots of character interaction and big set pieces to placate fans of the series. In other words, the game that probably should have released before the half-hearted attempt at a PC strategy game. The other two new releases will see players finally living out their dreams to have a Westeros Farmville or a browser-based MMO, or both considering they'll likely just run off any old internet browser.
Maybe my expectations as high because I'm picky, but I would like to think that in any part of the entertainment industry there's always a risk of inducing a sort of 'franchise fatigue' on your audience. In the gaming industry a series like Guitar Hero immediately comes to mind, but it's not the only IP that the industry has had to sit back and let rest for a while. Most Sports games that aren't yearly releases will take a decent hiatus from one release to the next, and AAA FPS titles generally saturate the market intentionally to keep new competition from stepping in to fill any kind of hole. But these are generally strategies used to prolong the life of a series, not cut it short.
What hurts even more is that although I'm new to the Ice & Fire series, it's clear that an amazing amount of love and care has gone into the writing of each novel. Every character is meticulously planned, each event has an incredible amount of weight and following the development and growth of minor characters is as rewarding as finding out what happens to the major players. So why they wouldn't be placing the same meticulous amount of time and effort into any game they develop is confusing. Game of Thrones fans don't really want something fluffy to sit around at their computers with, that's what Farmville is already there for. Adding a Game of Thrones skin won't change much. They expect more from the franchise on just about every level, because that's what they've been given up until this point. Likewise, creating an MMO feels far too premature for the brand.
Deep down inside I know that nothing can really stop the hype train from ploughing on forward, and if Season 2 of the show does well there's no doubt that we're in for quite a few more years of terrible shovelware games, but it would be great to see the license treated a little less like Lord of the Rings. If there's one thing that gamers cannot stop talking about it's a game with a good story, memorable characters and defining plot points, something the Martin's books aren't really short of. Seeing any game announcement that doesn't capitalize on those inherent strengths, instead looking to see profits from soccer moms with nothing else to do, is pretty heartbreaking.