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Why do licensed kiddie games suck?

Above: A good kid's game: Duck Tales...WOOO-OOOH!

Brett’s inquisition led him to Lyle Hall of Heavy Iron Studios (the studio responsible for THQ’s Pixar games, among others) to get his opinion on why writers like us give their SpongeBob efforts so much crap (oh, how cruel we can be - making fun of kiddie games!). And then… well, apparently the whole thing started to make Brett very sad, because the interview got tucked deep in a folder somewhere on his hard drive and buried by a byte-mass of lolcats, 8-bit soundtracks, and whatever else Brett downloads. The inquisition was apparently over.

Above: We're tiny, we're toony, we're all a little looney!

But then it wasn't!Two years later that interview magically floated through the ether(net) and into my inbox. I listened to what Heavy Iron had to say about the merits of licensed kid’s games (or at least their games), andcomposed a few responses. Lyle made some great points, many of which I can't fully refute, but I still think that in general, licensed games suck. Here's why:

Above: Wall-E being evacuated from his own game

True, there probably are as many crappy non-kid-oriented games as there are crappy kid’s games, but I hesitate to agree that there are as many good kid’s games as there are good non-kid’s games. “Kid’s games” is a semi-specific genre, whereas “every-other-game-not-made-specifically-for-children” is not specific at all. Shooters aren’t known for being bad, RPGs aren’t known for being bad, M-rated games aren’t known for being bad – so why are kiddie games? Something must have earned them this reputation.

Plus, these licenses are exclusive – we only get one Wall-E game, and if it sucks (which it did), that’s all we ever get (unless it’s remade in 10 years). A new IP that bombs is forgettable, but we’re much less forgiving when afilm we love is sloppily repackaged and resold to eager children.

Big movie licenses have always sold games – good games, mediocre games, and worse-than-liver-soup games. And you do have to assume that they’re reaching their intended audiences, because their intended audiences are anyone who will buy them. The real question is: are developers and publishers exploiting their licensed properties by putting out shoddy games and assuming they'll sell?

I haveno reason to doubt the honest intentions of THQ, but if this is the case, why is it so hard for us to see the passion that apparently went into something like Wall-E? And stepping away from THQ,whatof games likeTomb of the Dragon Emperor (oh man, really bad)and Hannah Montana: Spotlight World Tour? Where is this passion? Are the kids and parents seeing something we aren't?