MARCH 18, 2014 • Looking to leverage its large catalog of game franchises, Warner Bros. Interactive Ent. (WBIE) has launched a Warner Bros Games Vault program that will match its library of properties with up-and-coming development talent. Each title will be a direct-to-digital release. The first game to emerge from the effort is a modern update by Arrowhead Game Studios to the 1985 Atari Games arcade dungeon crawler, Gauntlet. The new RPG version will release this summer on Steam for the PC, and will also support the Linux-based Steam OS and Steam Machines platforms. Arrowhead is based in Stockholm, Sweden.
Impact: Some of the aspects we like most about the rash of Kickstarter projects are the willingness to give new life to once major franchises from years ago, as well as the rise of new studios that want to make fresh and engaging PC games. Many of these projects would not see the light of day without crowdsourcing, which is why we are impressed with WBIE’s Games Vault initiative. The publisher is embracing the same virtues coming out of Kickstarter funding and applying it to its own portfolio of IP. We see this as a savvy investment in WBIE’s franchises, as well as in new creative talent. It is too early to say what the economics of Kickstarter funded games will be. There is no prior history to say whether huge AAA efforts such as Star Citizen will better succeed with mainstream gamers compared to less ambitious and less costly projects such as Elite: Dangerous. Marketing and distribution questions for these titles still loom large too. Whether we would have seen the WB Games Vault without crowdsourcing is difficult to say. Yet we can postulate that with the marketing skills that WBIE can bring to the process, even modest efforts can steady the path to success. Working with Steam and its huge community is another positive. With no retail packaging and promotion costs to worry about, more resources can be devoted to more titles, and Steam is an effective marketer of games on the service. We are also pleased to see the new Gauntlet will be playable on Linux-based systems. How well Linux will do as a game platform is impossible to know until more titles are available. Still, Gauntlet is a further confirmation that the overall PC platform is truly seeing a renaissance.