The Superman Game That Killed A Beloved Game Studio

In 2008, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron developer Factor 5 teamed with up-and-coming publisher Brash Entertainment to create an ambitious open-world game based on DC Comics' Man of Steel. By May of 2009 Factor 5 was no more. Thanks, Superman.

In the latest video from the folks at DidYouKnowGaming, Unseen64 video game historian Liam Robertson explores development and subsequent derailment of Superman: Blue Steel, a valiant attempt by Factor 5 to pay homage to one of the world's greatest comic book heroes.

The Superman Game That Killed A Beloved Game Studio

Brash Entertainment was founded in 2007 as a studio dedicated to producing licensed games, and the biggest licence it scored was Superman. The original plan was for Factor 5, fresh off the failed PlayStation 3 partnership that resulted in Lair, to create an open-world game that tied in in some way with the sequel to 2006's Superman Returns. It would star villains planned for that movie, Darkseid and Braniac, with additional villains like Killer Frost and Brimstone — any villain Factor 5 thought would make for a good fight.

The Superman Game That Killed A Beloved Game Studio

A vast Metropolis was constructed. Test videos of gameplay mechanics were crafted. Superman would have the ability to grab opponents and smash them through solid buildings, which sounds like just about the coolest thing a Superman video game could do.

The Superman Game That Killed A Beloved Game Studio

Problems began in mid 2008, when Warner Bros. decided they didn't want Bryan Singer to follow up the 2006 Superman movie after all, instead putting the franchise on ice with plans to revisit years later. That plan seems to have worked out just fine.

Factor 5 shifted gears at this point, moving from movie tie-in to a more general homage to Superman's vast and storied history. It would be a massive action-adventure game for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and (at Factor 5's insistence) Nintendo Wii, complete with online multiplayer.

But soon Brash Entertainment started running into financial issues due to a combination of bad business decisions and an overall lack of experience in the industry. The publisher laid off employees, sold off IP and eventually closed its doors completely in November of 2008.

If work on the Superman game was to continue, Factor 5 would need a new publisher. But the developers were far from a finished product, and with the economy in bad shape, publishers weren't biting. Rather than let go a fraction of its employees, can the project and work on other games, Factor 5 decided to try and stick things out.

In December of 2008 news broke that Factor 5 was out of funding and couldn't afford to pay its employees. After a month and change without pay, the majority of Factor 5 Inc. staff was gone by Christmas 2008. The official closure announcement came in May of 2009. The German branch of the studio, Factor 5 GmbH, remained in operation until 2011, 24 years after its 2007 founding.

Check out the video atop this post for a more in-depth look at the events leading up to and the aftermath of Factor 5's failed Superman game.

Factor 5 did some great things over its two decades, and fans from every end of the gaming culture spectrum remember it fondly to this day. I've no doubt that with a bit more money and time they would have triumphed over Superman.

Hopefully Batman fares better next week.


Comments

    Oh man, I had no idea that's what killed them.

    God dammit Superman, wasn't your 64 game enough of a blight on the world :P

      Yeah, I always thought it was the fact that Lair tanked that led to them shutting down.

    Beloved? Have you played Lair?

      One of my friends was quite a big fan of Lair. At least, once it got proper gamepad controls patched in.

      I enjoyed the Rogue Squadron games, but wasn't really aware of most of their other work besides Lair.

      It was one of the 5 games I got when I purchased my PS3, it was 100% crap. I played it the entire way through, and thought it was junk every step of the way.
      Everyone wanted that game to work, because Dragons are awesome, but it just sucked balls, and in a bad way.

    I had a great time with the recent iOS Superman game, recommended by this very website. And years back, the Death/Return SNES game where you played as the four Supermen was also OK.

    I don't exactly know why people cannot allow a 'Superman game' to be experimental. By 'people' I mean the audience. The only Superman game people are going to buy is the fighting game but that doesn't have to be the be-all and end-all.

    I'd like a prequel game exploring Krypton, for example.

    A Supergirl game based on the TV show would be electric. It's criminally ignored as it is.

    An open-world Smallville game where you start out as kid Clark and ultimately end up in Metropolis either as the ending or for the end-game would be delightful. You'd actually be doing very little brawling but traversal would be the name of the game. Disasters to deal with, etc.

    First third of it could be general training wheels stuff, maybe a bully is your antagonist. But I want to really get into the nitty-gritty of how the Kents influenced his character during these early years.

    Middle act - if you want to fast-forward time to the high school years - maybe each latent power discovered is its own setpiece? Obviously the Krypton history comes up here.

    Then last part could be world-building if a franchise is on the cards. Lois, super-villians, other heroes, go nuts!

    EDIT: I HAVE IT. A TELLTALE GAME. CANCEL THE BATMAN ONE.

    Last edited 21/03/16 11:52 am

      You mention wanting a prequel game exploring Krypton. You might know about this already but there is actually a TV show being developed with that concept simply called 'Krypton'. It is to be set about 200 years before the planet's destruction.

      Although it was announced a while ago now (at least a year ago maybe) and news about it since has been scarce. So hard to say whether it will happen for certain or not.

    remained in operation until 2011, 24 years after its 2007 founding.

    Huh?

    How has no one picked up on Blue Steel being an obvious Zoolander reference? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!

    I think the problem with a Superman game is that he's too powerful.

    An open world game like Arkham Knight but with Superman wouldn't work, taking on a group of thugs would present no challenge because he's too invincible, they couldn't attack him, they couldn't shoot him. It'd be like playing the game in God Mode.

    So then the story would have to accomodate a weakness for him, kryptonite fog (N64 lol), kryptonite enhanced enemies, magic, or use alien/krypton enemies who can match Superman's strength. But then that detracts away from your typical Superman scenario, he's meant to be stronger than everyone else, he's zipping around saving and taking on ordinary people apart from that one jerk who has a piece of kryptonite.

    So you have all these conflicting scenarios that you have to balance correctly in order to give people the Superman experience, but not too much of a Superman experience because that wouldn't make an interesting enough game.

    I feel that the best Superman game has probably been Lego Batman 2.

    Its not the game that killed them... it was Brash that killed them. Brash Setting up shop for the sole purpose to source hollywood licences then to outsource to developers... it was a bad deal from day 1

    Everyone knows it isn't a Superman game unless you are flying through rings and throwing cars

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