Star Trek - where no game has gone before

James Batchelor
Star Trek - where no game has gone before

JJ Abrams’ Star Trek: Into Darkness is one of 2013’s biggest cinema releases – and the games industry has its own voyage with the Starship Enterprise to look forward to.

But Namco Bandai’s Star Trek: The Video Game isn’t your typical movie tie-in. It’s the result of a three-year development and heavy investment from Paramount Digital Entertainment, the Hollywood giant’s burgeoning games division.

Like Captain Kirk himself, Paramount is on a mission to ‘seek new life’: namely, gamers. After countless tie-in apps and licensing deals, this is the company’s biggest venture into the increasingly mainstream video games market.

“Our biggest challenge was designing a game that was complementary to the amazing universe created for the 2009 film,” Brian Miller, SVP of worldwide marketing partnerships and licensing at Paramount Pictures, tells MCV. “We knew everything had to look, sound and feel as if it had been pulled right from the big screen.

"The game also has the same challenge as the 2009 film itself did: To both appeal to a wide audience and satisfy the hardcore Trekker. The only way to do this was to have an engaging story that appeals to both demographics.”

This story takes place between the events of the 2009 film and Into Darkness. When the Enterprise responds to a distress beacon at a strange research station, events quickly escalate into a race to uncover a Vulcan conspiracy and prevent an invasion from classic Trek villains, the reptilian Gorn.

"The game also has the same challenge as the 2009
film itself did: To both appeal to a wide audience and
satisfy the hardcore Trekker. The only way to do this
was to have an engaging story that appeals
to both demographics.”

VP of worldwide marketing partnerships and licensing
at Paramount Pictures Brian Miller


The plot has been penned by award-winning God of War writer Marianne Krawczyk, who translated big screen ideas to the different narrative form of games.

Players take on the role of either Kirk or Spock, voiced by the film’s stars Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. Events and gameplay styles will differ depending on which officer fans play as, and the entire game can be played in co-op.

“We are incredibly proud of the way the storyline has been integrated into the gameplay,” says Miller. “We wanted to make sure that this game wasn’t just a rehash of the same stories people had seen before – either on the big screen or television.”

Miller adds that most movie-based games suffer from what he considers to be “lacklustre storytelling”. Making a standalone title gave Paramount the chance to mix things up, throwing in plot twists that aren’t dictated by the game’s silver screen counterpart.

He adds: “When you are working with the same amazing actors that were in the film, you have the opportunity to give your audience something new and that, at the same time, is grand enough to be considered canon.

“The biggest compliment we’ve received so far is that people have told us, ‘That felt like I was watching Star Trek’. That is, by far, the hardest thing to pull off.”

Lacklustre storytelling isn’t the only thing movie tie-ins suffer from. For decades, consumers have been quick to turn up their nose at licensed titles such as this – and often rightly so.

But Miller is confident that Paramount has invested enough time, resources and talent into Star Trek to differentiate it from the more mediocre products that accompany major movie releases.

“Most movie-based games are rushed, inadequately financed, too closely tied to the film’s plot,” he says. “They are treated as product, as something that will just cash in on a film’s success.

“In our case, Star Trek: The Video Game has been in development for over three years, has a budget that rivals many of the movies we make, a completely original storyline, the voices and likeness of the full Star Trek cast, and two hours of new music from Michael Giacchino.

“It was designed to be a standalone Star Trek experience that wasn’t dependent on the gamer having seen the films.”

The video game’s position as a standalone product extends to the marketing plans, too.

Due for relase on April 26th – arriving just three weeks before Into Darkness hits cinemas – the game will be promoted with its own dedicated campaign. Some cross-promotion is already underway, most notably with a free GPS app game that unlocks new info and screens, but for the most part Paramount is treating the video game as a separate launch.

“Most movie-based games are rushed, inadequately
financed, too closely tied to the film’s plot. They are
treated as product, as something that will just
cash in on a film’s success."

VP of worldwide marketing partnerships and licensing
at Paramount Pictures Brian Miller


With little competition around release and hype building for the return of the revamped Star Trek, there is potential for the game to be one of the summer’s big sellers.

Paramount has dabbled in games before, as have many movie firms, but with mixed results. The 2009 Star Trek was accompanied by an underwhelming app game and past projects have been just as forgettable.

But as Warner Bros has proved, there is room in the games industry for Hollywood names if they have the right product.

“Star Trek has been around for five decades and it will certainly outlive all of us,” he says. “Our job, at least in the video games space, is to expand the universe – to tell stories that you can’t tell on the big screen. We want to make sure we can introduce a whole new audience to Trek – but also satisfy the same hardcore fans that got us this far.

“We were shocked to realise there had never really been a game where you can play as Kirk and Spock. They are the core of what makes Star Trek special and we’re very happy to finally let the player become those iconic characters.

“We would love to make more Star Trek games. We’re very excited about the next generation of gaming and feel that Star Trek has to be a big part of that. Besides, there are many untold stories of Kirk and Spock that ­need to be told.”

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Tags: video game , paramount , star trek

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