Captain America: The Winter Solider set an opening-weekend record for April, hauling in an estimated $96 million at the U.S. box office. That meant millions, or at least thousands, of Capt. America fans left the theater this weekend wondering when they could do digital patriotic deeds while pretending to be the good ol’ Captain. The only problem: there’s no real Captain America 2 video game, at least not for consoles.
Heck, even the one Captain America: The Winter Solider game that does exist — for phones — appeared quietly a full week before the film. In the “RPG lite,” Captain America and his SHIELD agents can have their abilities upgraded and can battle against other real-world players in a multiplayer mode. But why no Captain America 2 video game for the consoles?
It’s simple, really. The last time we saw Captain America in a console game he didn’t exactly save the day. Captain America: Super Solider provided a few levels of intrigue on Xbox 360 and PS3 (read our review), but a few missteps kept the game from totally overcoming the tie-in curse.
The success of videogame tie-ins and their big-screen kin are seldom equal. If you’re old enough to remember Atari’s E.T. video game, you already know this isn’t a recent trend. So, although the last Captain America video game hit consoles and did OK, nobody was willing to risk it this time around.
The Marvel license wasn’t the risk, nor was the movie itself. The risk, especially in the middle of a transition between console generations, was purely financial. Which console platform would the creators have developed on? How many systems would get the port? Would it be a “last-gen” game or a next-gen (now-current-gen) game? Which studio would be tapped to develop a Captain America 2 video game when it seems like smaller studios are getting gobbled up left and right?
Put all those questions in a single hat, and it was pretty clear nobody outside of Activision would want to take the reins, and Activision is busy with another Amazing Spider-Man game. Oh, had you forgotten about Spidey and his requisite tie-in already?
Frankly, that’s part of the problem too: longevity. Mobile games are almost by definition time-limited experiences. Normally you’re talking or texting on your phone, not playing a game, and the gameplay requirements are much less demanding for the platform. There are also many more mobile developers than there are console ones, opening the game-development process to the lowest bidder, essentially. Lower bids means much less risk.
Console games, by contrast, can cost tens of millions of dollars to develop and cost anywhere between $15 and $60 to buy. If you were developing a game — even one for a sure-fire hit like Captain America: The Winter Solider — would you choose higher up-front cost, higher customer-acquisition cost and longer development time, or a process that cost less, could be had by consumers for $3 or less and could be churned out much faster?
Here’s one more variable to consider. The last time a game tied to a movie sequel got the green light, it was the Star Trek game that released just before Star Trek: Into Darkness. That one completely stunk, and it currently hovers in the low 40s — across all platforms — on Metacritic.
Add that all up, and you can see why there’s no Captain America 2 video game for PS4, PS3, Xbox One or Xbox 360. If you’re desperate play superhero for a few hours, it’s probably best for everyone if you just go buy some Captain America underwear from Amazon instead. Just don’t share the photos.