Here’s a fun one to mull over to start the week. If you were going to transform the legendary G.I. Joe franchise into a video game, what would it look like?
That’s the question Wizards of the Coast is asking, because they’re currently hiring a bunch of lead roles to head up the project. The studio was announced earlier this year as part of Hasbro’s annual investor event, where the toy and merchandising conglomerate announced it would be opening up a new studio to create video games based on some of its massive franchises, like Transformers, Micronauts and Ouija. (Hasbro also said at the time they were working with Hidden Path Entertainment, makers of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and the Defence Grid games, and Warren Spector’s OtherSide Entertainment, in the “longer term”.)
But the first major thing coming out of this new Raleigh studio will be a third-person, multiplatform action-adventure based on G.I. Joe, according to the job listings. Here’s a cut from what’s needed for the lead game designer:
New Raleigh-Durham Studio seeks a hardworking, experienced, and team-oriented Lead Game Designer to help us build an outstanding AAA, 3rd Person Action/Adventure game. In this role, you will be responsible for crafting and coordinating the overall game design blueprint as well as helping to build the game’s moment-to-moment gameplay mechanics and systems, driving them from concept all the way to ship!
And it’s what you’d expect from a title like this, but the preferred experiences notes are also an indication of what you’d probably expect from any third-person action-adventure these days: combat design and some kind of open or open-ish world with interesting traversal that’s not just fast travelling:
Experience designing and implementing 3rd Person melee combat and traversal systems.
Experience with level design, encounter design, or layouts.
Experience with progression and difficulty systems.
Experience working on Existing IP games.
Unreal Engine is mentioned as a bonus in at least two of the listings, although it’s obviously super early days for the project and anything can change.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t Wizards of the Coast’s first video game studio. The makers of Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance, a game that had one of the messier launches of 2021 so far, are fully owned by Hasbro, Wizards’ parent company. That acquisition was completed in 2019, although no details were disclosed about the financials at the time.
After G.I. Joe, it’ll be interesting to see what kinds of in-house takes Hasbro wants for its own franchises. The company’s licensed out plenty of its games before and worked with lots of external partners to varying degrees of success. PlatinumGames is a great example: the Japanese studio released Transformers Devastation in 2015. a game that was one of the surprise hits of the year.
But great ideas can come from anywhere — and besides, PlatinumGames is probably a bit busy with Babylon’s Fall, Bayonetta 3 and Project G.G right now. There’s lots of paths you could take with all of those franchises. I know the direction for this G.I. Joe game is set, but imagine if someone called the developers of Shadow Tactics/Desperados 3. A real-time tactics game in the franchise could work real well. (Hell, even an Evil Genius or Dungeon Keeper-style take where you’re running Cobra HQ could make for a fun twist.)
We likely won’t hear about the project for a long while yet, but it’s worth keeping an eye on if only for the potential ramifications. A big win for Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast means they’ll likely double down on their in-house gaming ambitions. The record has been a bit spotty so far — some licensed plays are working out real well (Baldur’s Gate 3), while others, like Magic: Legends, didn’t survive the year. (Snake Eyes wasn’t the best, either.) Here’s hoping the next age of G.I. Joe fares a little better.