The official video game tie-in for Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out this week for iOS and Android, and the $2.99 Gameloft joint has me waxing nostalgic for the days of paying $50 for licensed console games that were almost guaranteed crap.
Movie-based console games have been on the decline since 2011, when the first Captain America film was accompanied to market by Captain America: Super Soldier. It wasn't a great game, but it wasn't horrible, and it didn't once ask me to pay a premium for additional items that would help me complete the game.
The Marvel movie universe is actually a good focal point from which to observe the decline of console movie tie-ins. Iron Man, Captain America and Thor all had console game tie-ins, as did Iron Man 2. Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and now Captain America: The Winter Soldier all got the Gameloft mobile treatment. The Avengers movie had no real game tie-in (though several comic book-based games came out around it), and serves as the turning point.
Over the past three years the vast majority of movies that would have once been made into console games are instead going the mobile route — Man of Steel, After Earth, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and the new Robocop, to name a few. We've still got our Amazing Spider-Man and The LEGO Movie Video Games, but it feels like it's only a matter of time before we lose those too.
I guess it makes sense. Why bother employing a massive development team to crank out a passable console game that might sell a couple hundred thousand copies, when a cheap-as-free mobile game will sell ten times the number and continuously generate fresh revenue via microtransactions?
Captain America: The Winter Soldier isn't a bad game. Sure, it's $2.99 with a heavy focus on microtransactions, but its got style and a unique Diablo-tactics vibe to it. I guess I'm just missing the days when publishers were confident enough to try and trick us out of $50 all at once, instead of a dollar or two at a time.