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DC’s plans for canon games would be ‘a nightmare,’ Marvel game director says

James Gunn’s insistence on continuity of storylines and actors won’t work, says Marvel’s Midnight Suns lead

The members of the Suicide Squad form a circle looking down at the camera in Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Image: Rocksteady Studios/Warner Bros.
Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

Launching their plans for the rebooted DC Universe this week, DC Studios co-chairmen James Gunn and Peter Safran reiterated their desire to bring DC superhero games, as well as film and TV, into a single, connected universe. They also suggested that they wanted the same actors to play characters across all media.

“One of our jobs is to come in and make sure the DCU is connected, in film, television, gaming, and animation,” Gunn said in an official video. “That the characters are consistent, played by the same actors, and it works within one story.”

Not everyone thinks this is a great idea. Commenting on gaming’s integration with the DC Universe, Jake Solomon, director of the recent Firaxis game Marvel’s Midnight Suns, said it would make game development harder, as well as threatening the livelihoods of video game voice actors.

“This would have been a nightmare for us on Midnight Suns,” Solomon said on Twitter, “I understand the desire (I think) but movies and games are so, so different. And the pressure this puts on the amazing voice actors in the games space?” Solomon went on to predict the proposed integration wouldn’t happen. “Different universes. And that’s how they should/will stay.”

Solomon isn’t going out on a limb here. The view that games based on big properties should follow their own continuities and release schedules, rather than tying into film releases, has been accepted as best practice in the industry for over a decade. The creative and logistical freedom this approach grants game studios has allowed the likes of Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham series, or Insomniac’s Spider-Man games, to become massive franchises in their own right, despite overlapping with popular film iterations of the same characters.

Marvel Studios hasn’t had the same success with its own game licensing efforts. (Spider-Man’s video game licensing rights are held separately, by Sony.) But even Disney and Kevin Feige have resisted trying to tie the likes of Crystal Dynamics’ Marvel’s Avengers into the Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity, and it sounds as though future Marvel projects — which include an Insomniac Wolverine game, an Iron Man game from EA’s Motive studio, and a World War II-set Captain America and Black Panther game from Amy Hennig’s Skydance studio — are freestanding games built on the Arkham/Spider-Man model.

Gunn and Safran haven’t said much about their plans for integrating games with the DCU yet. In an in-house DC interview, Gunn appeared to want to split the difference, proposing games that would fit the canon (and fill gaps in the release schedule) while still telling stories that can stand on their own.

“It’s not like we’re going to have the Superman movie come out and have this Superman game come out,” Gunn said. “It’s more like we’ll have the Superman film come out, then maybe two years later, we have the Supergirl movie coming out. So, what’s the story in between there? Is there a Krypto game that we can play that comes in between them? Something that’s still set in the world with these characters, but is its own thing.”

If Gunn is proposing, even as a hypothetical, slotting a game about Krypto the Superdog between two major in-development movies, it doesn’t speak that well of his opinion of the gaming medium or his grasp of game production schedules. Fortunately for him, he has an easy out. There’s nothing to say the DC Elseworlds label, which will be applied to Matt Reeves’ sequel to The Batman and Todd Phillips’ Joker: Folie à Deux, can’t be applied to games too. Expect this to appear on Rocksteady’s forthcoming Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League — and, perhaps, once Gunn and Safran’s plans meet reality, the majority of DC game releases in the future.

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