Aquaman’s Success Shouldn’t Have Been A Surprise!

If you follow movie industry sites, one of the biggest stories is how well Warner Bros./DC’s Aquaman is doing. How the film is going to bank $1 Billion even though the lead character is often a joke, but you know what, this shouldn’t be that surprising. While indeed Aquaman has been the butt of a few jokes, you never need to explain the joke to anyone because Aquaman is a household name.

Aquaman came out in 1941, and he has been one of the most well-known heroes since. My Grandfather understands who Aquaman is and what he can do. He is the strong guy from Atlantis who can control/talk to fish. With every Marvel hero that hits the scene I have to prepare myself for all the questions, “Where did they come from? What are their powers? What other heroes do they hang out with? Why is there villain bad?” Now Marvel has been on such an amazing run that none of those questions stop most people from going to the movie, but not one person asked me about Aquaman. They just asked if I was going to see the movie opening night or wait a couple of weekends.

The other overriding theme you will hear is that all the DCEU films were such failures that Aquaman’s success is some sort of anomaly, but guess what? Except for China, Aquaman is doing almost the same amount of business worldwide as the rest of the DCEU movies. The average DCEU film, not counting Aquaman, did $750 Million worldwide, and that is with Justice League pulling the average down. Plus, Suicide Squad couldn’t be screened in China because it featured villains as the main characters, so it broke the moral media code of China Film Co. (the Chinese media importer), and it made $750 Million anyway. In other words, except for a movie that was visibly and aggressively orange, people have been turning out for the DCEU movies, so it should be no surprise that when one comes out un-tinted and fun looking with a hunky man as the lead, people showed up again. Add to that, China has a thing for mermaid movies (look it up), Aquaman looks more like the norm, than an outlier.

Considering the disappointment of Justice League, it was easy to get carried away with all the DCEU is doomed talk, but it turns out maybe people just don’t like orange unfinished movies. If proper care is taken, ‘A’ list superheroes will perform like ‘A’ list superheroes and make tons of cash. Which is to say, when Shazam only makes $600 Million the DCEU world is not ending, because ‘B’ list superheroes will perform like ‘B’ list superheroes and make slightly less cash. Just ask Ant-Man.

Will Bumblebee Be The Next Batman Begins?

Amid Aquaman‘s box office domination there are two movies trying to do their best ‘Little Engine that Could’ impressions, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Bumblebee. Spider-Man is doing better, and earning all the geek-cred, but Bumblebee is making it work too. While $168 Million worldwide (all financial data for this post was sourced from The-Numbers.com) after twelve days of release isn’t a lot, especially since past Transformers movies earned that in their opening weekend, if not more, it is earning favor with critics and audiences.

Bumblebee has a 93% from critics and an audience rating of 79% on RottenTomatoes.com. Over on Metacritic.com, it has a 67 from critics and a 7.5 from users, and to top it all off it got an A- from CinemaScore. Which means, most people would recommend it to their friends. All of which is miles better than the last Transformers movie. In other words, it is not lighting the world on fire box-office wise, but people dig it. Which should sound familiar to Batman fans.

Batman Begins only did $375 Million off a $150 Million budget , and while that is above the minimum return for a movie to eek out a profit at some point (2/1 box-office to budget), it probably didn’t cover advertising or distribution costs. Meaning it would have to get all that money back during home sales and selling movie rights to TV. Not to mention merchandising. Regardless of its box-office struggles, fans loved it. It was a Batman movie that treated Batman with some dignity. It told a grand story. It was everything Batfans had been wanting, and with the fans’ faith restored, the next two movies in the Dark Knight trilogy did over a billion worldwide each.

I am not saying the next solo Transformers movie will make a billion because people liked Bumblebee, but I am saying that Bumblebee is earning a lot goodwill, and that has a history of being rewarded. Not to mention Bumblebee was made with a very modest $100 Million budget, so it doesn’t even have as much to make back as Batman Begins did. Meaning, I think Paramount has a lot to be optimistic about going forward with the Transformers franchise. Provided that they continue to make quality movies.

Microsoft Makes The Internet Mad! But They Shouldn’t Be.

I was going to review The Grinch today, but the internet has been all in a tizzy about Microsoft’s newest studio acquisitions.  Namely Obsidian Entertainment and inXile Entertainment.  There have been a lot of gifs on the subject.  A few of these:

And probably more appropriately some of these:

And while seeing these major RPG studios get gobbled up by a corporate entity known for buying studios and then closing them after a couple disappointing games seems alarming.  We all need to take a deep breath and look at the bigger picture.

Both of these studios were having cash problems.  It turns out for inXile making RPGs for a niche market doesn’t provide a lot of cashflow, and for Obsidian, they were also releasing niche isometric RPGs that were doing okay, but their major games like South Park were not doing a ton of business.  As we saw with TellTale, once cash gets low it only takes one mediocre round of funding, and all your employees are walking out the front door with their knickknacks in a box with no severance package.  All of the sudden a major cooperation with a lot of cash and a history of treating employees well seems like a good idea.

Not to mention for most gamers nothing changes in the short term.  Obsidian’s next untitled game is still coming out for all platforms on 2K’s new indie label Private Division, and Wasteland 3 from inXile was partially funded on Fig.co, so Microsoft will have to publish the game on all the platforms that were listed there (Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) to honor its investors.  These games getting finished was probably not a certainty a few months ago.

Now after those two games, I am sure their next games will be locked in to Microsoft platforms, but their games usually don’t push graphical boundaries, so finding a PC able to run them shouldn’t be an issue.  Better yet, so Microsoft can get some ROI we are guaranteed at least one more game from each of these devs.  Which we should all be very happy about.  Even better Brian Fargo from inXile was going to retire after Wasteland 3 came out, but now it sounds like he is sticking around for a while.  It is probably nice being able to just build a game without wondering where all the money will be coming from.

With these purchases Microsoft gains two legendary RPG houses (Even more legendary if you take in to account they used to be Black Isle Studios and Interplay Entertainment.  I mean Microsoft needs to buy the Interplay company branding like yesterday), and it gets to add a lot of games to its upcoming PC focused Game Pass, and at least two exclusive RPGs for the Xbox One X2 or whatever they will call it.  For everyone else, we get four games instead of none, and even if the studios do close, we know Microsoft will treat those employees properly while they look for their next opportunity.  What I am saying is, everyone wins, and sounds like a good deal to me.  Better yet, I am betting we are getting that Halo Universe RPG in a few short years, and that is something to be excited about.

The Diablo Immortal Controversy Is Everything That Is Wrong With Fandom!

Blizzard teased that something big would be happening with the Diablo franchise at this year’s BlizzCon, and of course fans jumped to the conclusion that Diablo 4 was going to be announced, or at the very least info on a new expansion, but that of course was not the case.  What was announced instead was a new free to play (F2P) mobile game being done by an outside studio.   The game is called Diablo Immortal.

This sounded great to me.  Diablo on the go?  Why not.  As long as the F2P stuff is optional.  I mean Pokémon Go, PUBG, and Fortnite have all shown that games can be F2P on phones and still be fun.  Hardcore Diablo fans on the other hand raged.  Don’t go anywhere near Blizzard on twitter or any of the Blizzard franchise Reddit pages.  It is just hundreds of angry gamers lashing out at anyone who works at Blizzard/Activision with toxic vitriol, and what is sad, is that this isn’t surprising.

Lately whenever a developer or any other media company does something fans don’t like, fans feel it is their duty to lash out, to get things changed, or to get the people responsible fired.  Look it is okay to be disappointed.  To have a large stage show in front of the most hardcore of hardcore fans that paid hundreds of dollars to be there live and fifty bucks to watch virtually then announce a mobile game was not a smart move on Blizzard’s part, but while it is okay to be disappointed.  To out and out rage is not.

Blizzard has several F2P games, and I am sure they thought one based on one of the their biggest franchises would big news.  It was, but not for the reasons they were hoping, and the fact this rage has lasted all weekend long with no signs of slowing down is saddening.  We as fans need to be better about this.  If you don’t like the game, don’t play it (though everyone is going to).  Also, I am not saying not to voice your displeasure.  Please do, but be respectful.  It is much different to say, “Blizzard is a bunch of greedy a$$h0!es!” versus, “Man I am bummed we didn’t get any new mainline Diablo content.”, or “Why use BlizzCon to announce a mobile game?”.  Two of those statements get our points across, and might even get read by Blizzard employees.  One makes us look like a bunch of jerks.  I will let you decide which is which.

We should all be true to our feelings, but taking them out on the people that make our games and movies is not helpful.  It is upsetting that so many fans feel like this is okay.  It makes it hard to call myself a gamer knowing that so many of us act like entitled brats about little things that don’t matter.  What’s worse is that we all know Diablo 4 will come out sooner or later, Diablo fans are just mad they feel they were bait and switched, and even if they were to some small extent, this is not how it should be dealt with.  We should all take deep breaths and be grateful for all the great content we have and that is continuing to be made.  Not pitting ourselves against the people that are making it.

Steam Tears Down The Wall And Replaces It With A Papier-Mâché Fence!

Valve for years has pushed back on content that it deemed too offensive for its digital storefront Steam.  However, as time has passed the line for what gets let in and what gets banned has turned in to more of a sine curve that developers have had to try and calculate in order to sell their wares on gaming’s biggest digital store.  Then after doing all that “math” some developers got notices that their games were going to be dropped from the store anyway.  Which is a problem if Steam accounts for 80% of your sales.  After a few weeks of silence Valve brushed it all off as a misunderstanding.  The devs, as you can imagine, were not pleased, so to make everyone “happy” Steam’s forthcoming policy is that everything is permitted, and it is up to the users to build their own walls for what they see with tools that are forthcoming.

Here is the thing, those tools have got to be really effective and easy to use otherwise people are going to start seeing a lot of crap they don’t want to.  It is like going to a video store in the 90’s and just pretending there was nothing behind the beaded curtain.  Of course in that case at least the store put the curtain up.  It wasn’t up to the perspective renters to hang the rod and decide the bead density.  Valve should have just said they were creating an “opt-in” policy, and then let people check the boxes for what they want to see.  That way everything stays beyond the wall until you say to open the gates.  If someone searches for something beyond that wall, it could let them know that it exists, but that they would need to update their settings.  Now however, it is going to be a free-for-all until you get your barrier setup correctly.

Then on top of that Steam has the audacity to say that even though they are letting every kind of game in that doesn’t mean they agree with the game in question’s content.  Oh, well I am glad you don’t agree with what you are going to try and make a bundle of money off of.  It is a like a nun working the front desk at a brothel, “It is a sin to step inside my child, but I will need $50 up front to enter the bar.”  What?!  Even more insane is that Valve will still ban games that are illegal and that are “outright trolling”.  Illegal I get, but trolling?  According to who?  Why get rid of an arbitrary line to just add a worse arbitrary line?

I am glad that developers will now be able to make the kinds of games they want to make and host them on Steam, but Valve should still have a major hand in trying protect its users from the terrible stuff those devs are going to make.  The wall should still exist, just make a gate and post some guards warning of what lies beyond, “There be adult content, gruesome violence and nudity past this point fair traveler!”  Let it be a user decision, not a platform decision, and “trolling”?  That should be more detailed, like no games replicating racist acts or school shootings, you know, an actual policy.  Steam will soon be the Wild West, and I am not sure its users will apricate the change.