Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Little Girl Games

Jon Schnaars | 15 Jan 2008 12:09
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Instead, for each licensed title, all parties involved must agree on what type of game best suits the IP. In the case of Winx Club, Konami was especially pleased with the replay value of the mini-games Powerhead created for the first go around. So in the second title, Powerhead put more effort into building out new and interesting mini-games. Likewise, during market research, they discovered girls enjoyed the dress-up and design element that had only been added as an afterthought in the first Winx game. So during development for the second game, this feature has been greatly expanded.

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It's easy to see how these kinds of elements might get overlooked by a development team comprised primarily of young men. But as Corbetta explained, one of the first things he learned in working on licensed titles is you're not making a game for yourself.

"You have to realize that the game you're making, you're making this game for people who like the franchise. So you want to make a good game regardless, but you also can't forget the franchise. If you forget the franchise, you're basically f----d," he said. "If you forget the franchise, then you're just making the game that you want to make for yourself." The developer must always keep in mind that the real draw of a licensed title is the chance to experience and control an IP that the gamer is familiar with.

Corbetta continued: "It's about them feeling like they're the character. If I make a game where there's a flying, shooting thing, I want to make Ikaruga. It's insane, and it's too hard, even for me. So you have to be able to pull away and say, 'These kids don't want Ikaruga.' Ikaruga is not a game made for 8-year-olds. Maybe if you're a hardcore 8-year-old, you'd play Ikaruga. But if you're [that hardcore,] you're probably not buying [a licensed] game."

In the universe of gaming, licensed titles will always inhabit a nether realm: rarely challenging enough to be considered hardcore fare, but usually deeper than a typical casual game. Developers like Powerhead must tread between both worlds. They need to appeal to and appease a dedicated fan base, but also offer something new and innovative for other gamers who may stumble upon the game. For firms like Powerhead, licensed games provide a challenge but also a steady stream of income that allows the company, and designers like Corbetta, the chance to develop original games.

Licensed games will likely continue to play the role of the black sheep: rarely taken seriously and often simply ignored. But these games have a role and a place, not only in the business of selling games, but also in the art of game design. Somewhere out there is a little girl with a Winx Club game that could grow up to be the next David Jaffe, Will Wright or Shigeru Miyamoto. And the things she learns from that game's success, as well as its failures, will help inform her future career.

Jon Schnaars is a freelance writer with interests in genre and representation in gaming. He blogs full-time about issues in psychology and mental health for Treatment Online.

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