Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight was one of the most successful movies of all time. Not just for superhero movies, but for all of cinema. Its worldwide gross stands north of $1 billion. Its technical and storytelling achievements stand on their own, away from the eerie shadow of Heath Ledger’s untimely death. But where was the video game? Unseen64, a popular YouTube series that investigates the demise of certain video games, offers answers.
In the late-aughts, it was pretty much guaranteed any superhero or animated family movie would have a video game tie-in that would capitalize on release. Today these games are apps on smartphones, but for a time they were console releases that dominated GameStop shelves until months later when they occupied the discount bins. Still, anyone would have snatched up a licensed videogame of The Dark Knight, one of the rare cultural events that actually surpassed the critical mass hype.
Unseen64, a series from the YouTube channel DidYouKnowGaming? that explores canceled games, recently dived into Batman: The Dark Knight which had been in development by Pandemic Studios, known for Star Wars: Battlefront and later The Saboteur. According to the filmmakers, what killed the project was the studio’s use of a new and untested engine named Odin that broke down when the developers introduced the complex Batman model and Gotham’s dynamic lighting. This forced the team to work backwards as the film’s release date quickly approached.
Missing both the theatrical release in July and the DVD sale in winter, plus the 2008 financial crisis, were ultimately what hammered the nail in the coffin.
A worthy side note: Bono was one of the game’s investors. It’s only because he co-founded the investment firm Elevation Partners which funded the game, but he saw it at Pandemic’s offices during a U2 Australia tour and allegedly loved it. To think, we almost lived in a world where Bono made a Batman game.