DC Comics/Warner Bros.
This week Batman: Arkham Origins Backgate comes to consoles, and since we never pass up an opportunity to talk Batman ’round these parts, let’s take a moment to chat about the original Arkham game, Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Made by a small team with little of note under their belts, Batman: Arkham Asylum not only proved that superhero games can be great, but it raised the bar for all licensed games period. It’s no coincidence that most blockbuster superhero movies no longer come with an accompanying slapped together video game — in the wake of Arkham Asylum getting things so right gamers would no longer give them the time of day. So, here’s a few interesting facts about the best damn superhero game of all time…
1) Batman: Arkham Asylum owes its existence to a failed The Dark Knight game. Isn’t it strange that The Dark Knight, the most popular Batman movie of all time, never got a video game? Well, actually, there was a The Dark Knight game in the works. The Dark Knight video game was an open world title being developed by EA and Pandemic Studios (the guys behind acclaimed titles like Star Wars: Battlefront and Mercenaries). Unfortunately the game fell apart and wasn’t anywhere near ready by the time The Dark Knight hit theatres in mid-2008. The failure of the game led to a whopping 100-million dollar loss for EA, the shuttering of Pandemic and the loss of over 1000 jobs. Ouch.
The failure of The Dark Knight game also had another, more positive side effect — EA’s fumbling of Batman meant that Eidos, who also had their hands on the license, pretty much had free reign to do what they wanted with Batman. Without much to lose, and the bar set very low by EA, Eidos handed Batman to Rocksteady Studios, a small independent British developer that had only made one game at that point (the only decently review Urban Chaos: Riot Response).
2) A tiny team was responsible for Arkham Asylum. When I say Rocksteady was small, I mean it. When development of Arkham Asylum began Rocksteady had a mere 40 employees. By the time the game wrapped they were up to a whopping 60 employees. By comparison 500 to 1000 people work on your average Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty game. Compared to that the Arkham titles are practically indie games.