In 2009, ‘Avatar’ suddenly became the highest-grossing film in history. And back then, that only meant one thing: tons of merchandise, board games, lunchboxes, and video games expanding the story. However, for 15 years, Pandora has remained closed to us. Well, more or less: Why haven’t we had more games based on James Cameron’s work until ‘Frontiers of Pandora‘?
One can’t even explain it in Na’vi
It’s true that the trick of licensed games (giving a lower-quality product with the excuse that fans would buy it) was already stumbling by the late 2000s, but it’s surprising that no one had the audacity to try to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Well, no one except Ubisoft, which in 2009, taking advantage of the movie release, did release ‘Avatar: The Game’ for all existing consoles (from Nintendo DS to Xbox 360) with mixed results.
Actually, ‘Avatar: The Game’ was a sequel to the movie set two years later and introduced a new character, Able Ryder, where some characters from the film made cameo appearances. In the PSP and Wii versions, however, the plot was completely different, following a Na’vi, Raiuk, who stood against the military after they destroyed his village. Finally, the DS version followed a Na’vi named Nok who tried to put an end to biological experimentation on their kind. Three very different games under the same title that came to prove one thing: it’s not worth the effort to do things like this.
The audience couldn’t transition from James Cameron‘s incredible 3D worlds to terrible graphics on the Nintendo Wii, and despite Cameron’s involvement, everyone knew it. Even if you had the right TV, you could play it in 3D, during that time when every movie went crazy for the gimmick. But making a licensed adventure game set in Pandora that was ordinary wasn’t what fans wanted, especially not with such poor quality.
Moreover, would it have made sense to have an ‘Avatar’ game in 2015, after six years completely lost in the nebula of popular culture? It was an utterly unmanageable risk: there have been no video games (or extended universe, in general) based on ‘Avatar’ simply because it’s a franchise that, despite its undeniable earnings, doesn’t exist, doesn’t resonate—it doesn’t breathe like ‘Alien’ or ‘Star Wars’, which are always at the forefront of popular culture. ‘Avatar’ exists to make a splash, to be the biggest success possible, and then disappear.
And maybe that’s why it only makes sense to try how it works on consoles now that it’s back, momentarily, in the minds of the general public, and consoles can deliver graphics that were previously unheard of. If it was going to happen at any time, it’s now. We’ll see if it makes sense.