IP Onslaught

I am not sure what I think about this.  38 Studios has a dream team of creative minds.  R. A. Salvatore and Todd McFarlane alone could create an Arcadia beyond most mere mortal’s dreams.  Add in all their concept artists, game designers, and even coders (they have imaginations too!), and of course a great world is going to be created.

That being said, I feel like a bipolarized consumer of intellectual property (“IP”) when it comes to MMOs and offspring media. 

On one hand, I want to know, explore, and love all of it.  I have spent countless hours in lore sub-forums for Guild Wars and Warhammer Online.  I love arguing and speculating on the smallest tidbit of information trying to derive the whole world in my head.  I usually buy collector’s editions for the additional art books and lorebooks.  The in-game bonuses are just cherries on top.

On the other hand, a lot of the IP byproducts do not come close to the quality of the primary product.  I look at Borders where I find shelves of paperback fiction based on the IP of Magic the Gathering, Warhammer, World of Warcraft, etc., etc., etc.,, and as much as I love those worlds, I shy away from them.  I have never seen book reviewers rave about these books.  And honestly, their very presence gives off smells of writers trying to “make it.”  I rarely want to gamble money on some author’s trial run using another’s IP; I’d rather go for their magnum opus.  Time is money, friend.

So, it always scares me a little when a company without any product proclaims that their IP will be released across a swath of mediums because it always feels like focus on their flagship product is lost while a subpar off-product is the tradeoff.  Even small companies with products can dilute their creative juices to the point where the primary product dies off.  Mage Knight and Magi Nation spring to mind as two examples.  It’s a little scarier when the MMO company is pushing the “secondary” products as being part of the core consumer experience rather than a mere supplemental.

Now, readers know I am a Guild Wars fanatic, but I think (rationally?) that the forthcoming Guild Wars books do not scare me as much.  They serve a purpose.  They are not just part of a campaign to use the IP to its utmost economical limits.  They provide a point of view that the MMO just cannot reasonably provide AND there is a reason, other than cash-money, for doing so.  The Guild Wars books will convey the happenings across two and a half centuries leading up to Guild Wars 2.  Bioware is also using other mediums with purpose for their upcoming MMO as well.

It’s a slight difference, and maybe one that is only rationalized in my head.  But for now,  I will likely continue walking past the aisles of paperback IP offspring all the more quickly.

because it’s wreckable, all right?

9 thoughts on “IP Onslaught”

  1. I think they are just trying to leverage their investment. Don’t have an existing IP with a following? Create one! Unfortunately, that requires books, comics, miniatures, a tv show, etc etc. The danger is it all falling flat – a much bigger loss than just an MMO failing.

    It takes years to build a following for anything. Those things take time. And in the cases we have seen it doesn’t always work anyway – it really depends on the quality of the gaming product that is released. Look at Matrix Online as an example.

    It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds, for sure, but if I were 38 I’d just worry about making the best game possible, getting people hooked on it, then follow up with the books and ancillaries.

  2. A lot of the Warhammer books are actually pretty good. I’d read the Gotrek and Felix novels. I believe the first novel is actually a collection of short stories from White Wolf magazine. But they are a cut above the usual IP spinoff fantasy, more like “legitimate” fantasy. :)

    I’ve read a ton of Forgotten Realms books though always considered them the usual trash. Warcraft books are even worse though, except for a couple by Christie Golden. I use them for reading just before bed when I want to fall asleep not lie awake with deep thoughts bothering me :)

  3. @yunk: You mean “White Dwarf” magazine? I actually did pick up one collection of short stories from Warhammer because I was so hyped for WAR. They were okay, but far grittier than the actual MMO. And that is another possible pitfall… either setting up the wrong expectations with precursor secondary media or not keeping in line with precedent set by the MMO.

  4. WAR is very tame compared to the Warhammer world in general, which is sad but understandable.

    As for the 38 Studios piece, how exactly can you expand an IP without first having a base for it? What if the IP is garbage, and the MMO with it is terrible, is anyone going to run to the store to pick up the comic book based on said garbage game?

  5. I don’t have a problem with trying to create a “brand” – it’s a pretty common technique to help sell stuff. Plus, people genuinely like absorbing themselves in an IP. It’s why books and cartoons and card games exist for, well, pretty much anything and everything.

    Also, when you combine the talents of a popular novelist and comic creator, surely you can’t expect them to not release other related material :)

  6. I’ve actually been a reader of the Magic novel from the beginning, and I tend to agree about the first 4 novels being crap… They didn’t really have any connection to the game world(s) but then again, at that time there hadn’t been much in the way of real “world building” yet.
    Today however, we see most of the novels being written by the people actually involved with creating the planes and personalities seen in the cards, as well as the actual flavor text on the cards, which makes for a more involved and (typically) more enjoyable, book.
    On the other hand, I’m also leery of anything that goes the multi-media blitz route, regardless of story necessity or cash-cow-milking being the cause, as I wound up being mostly terribly disappointed by the .Hack games, books and multiple anime series route to the “bigger picture”.

  7. @We Fly Spitfires: That is true, and comforting, that both Salvatore and McFarlane are masters of their media domain. Still it’s a matter of finesse to create such a brand when the content-devouring MMO is one of the flagship products. It’s going to be really surprising if 38 Studios can actually come out of the gate with a brand that can rock on all 8 across multiple media outlets, and still have a great MMO.

  8. I’d be more concerned about the comments section below that article than anything else at this point.

    I’d also be a tad concerned about those concept art screenshots. Yes, I know there’s a long, long way from concept to done deal, but those shots are so generic they just don’t vibe with what the guy was saying.

    As a player I -desperately- want to believe this won’t be yet another fantasy game, but… I gotta go with what I’ve seen and read so far. Going by that, they’re hyping generic. And people can tell.

  9. Salvatore and Mcfarlane masters? Mcfarlane is known for one character and making action figures, and his only attempt an an original IP for a videogame was Mcfarlane’s evil prophecy, which bombed. Spawn hasn’t been a figure in the comic world for ages, since the mid nineties.

    Salvatore was an average SF writer until he got lucky with the Drizzt books and forgotten realms. His later success was more due to his success with those, he is good, but he is second tier at best, like writers like Mel Odom or Michael Stackpole. He only worked on the atari game Demon Stone that I know of, and it was forgotten realms again.

    You shouldn’t oversell average talent. Orson scott card couldn’t save advent rising, and he’s a stronger talent than either. It’s better they sell the actual game, and less theIP-a good game will have spinoffs flow naturally.

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