In an exclusive interview, The Fly spoke with David Whitfield and Dave Pottinger, two of the people behind "The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics," a tactics video game based on the upcoming "Dark Crystal" prequel series, which is set to premiere on Netflix (NFLX) in late August. The game is being developed by "Stranger Things 3: The Game" maker BonusXP and published by En Masse Entertainment, which is behind the fantasy massively multiplayer online game "Tera." The Fly notes that the upcoming "Dark Crystal" game does not have an official release date yet, but is slated to come out this year.
'DARK CRYSTAL' INSPIRATION: BonusXP co-founder Dave Pottinger, who previously spoke with The Fly about "Stranger Things 3," said that he was excited to work on a game based on the "Dark Crystal" franchise, since it's something that he and his team has "loved from our childhoods." "It came out at a time when a lot of us were very young. It formed, at least for me, a lot of how I think about fantasy," Pottinger said. "It’s always been something we refer to and look back on with a lot of love. A chance to even be peripherally involved in something like that is a dream come true for our entire studio." On the subject of using the tactical strategy genre for the game, Pottinger said it's a "very good fit" for the world and characters, as the genre is great for "building up a party of characters and caring about what each of them could do and different abilities."
Meanwhile, En Masse product manager David Whitfield told The Fly that while he personally hadn't stayed too close to the property, the publishing studio was very excited about their involvement. "We have people who every year on their anniversary go to a viewing of it," he said. "We have a lot of people who saw it when it initially opened. There’s so much passion for the franchise and since the game’s been announced that’s really coming out in force.” Whitfield noted that Square's "Final Fantasy Tactics" is one of his favorite video games, so the prospect of combining the "Dark Crystal" universe with the tactics genre got him "super excited" about the game.
CULT AUDIENCE: The original "Dark Crystal" film opened in 1982, and while it wasn't a big hit at the box office, it garnered a cult following. When asked if there is a big enough audience interested in a game based on the franchise or if the game has the chance to attract people who aren't fans of the property, Dave Pottinger said he believes a lot of people will be drawn to the title.
"It’s a great tactical strategy game," the BonusXP co-founder told The Fly. "That’s critical, and that’s where we start everything is with gameplay. So in terms of pulling fans from all the different categories, we don’t really worry about pulling in fans of tactical strategy games because that’s what the core vision is. Parallel to that, it’s got to be a great 'Dark Crystal' game too, and that makes us shade some of the tactical decisions a little bit. We know we’re going to have a broader audience than the core tactical crowd, but then again we build everything for the hardcore gamer and go from there. We don’t start with building a casual game and trying to make it more hardcore. For us, that never works out very well. We always start out with what we love as true, hardcore gamers.”
In response to the same question, En Masse's Whitfield said that he agrees with Pottinger that the game will have "wide appeal." "I think there’s something that’s just very arresting about the Dark Crystal," Whitfield said. “It’ll be right at home in a video game.”
E3: Though "The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics" will launch on PC, Xbox One (MSFT), PlayStation 4 (SNE), and Nintendo Switch (NTDOY), the game was first unveiled last month at Nintendo's E3 presentation. When asked why Nintendo was selected for the game's E3 debut, Whitfield said that his company has though for a while that the Switch was going to be "one of our strongest platforms. "You can play it on the bus. You can play it wherever you want in your house," he said. "It just lends itself really, really well to tactical games and tactical gameplay. It’s home for a lot of those titles already, though there just aren’t enough of those titles to really satisfy that audience. They’re always hungry for more. They’re always hungry for the next great tactics title. So Nintendo is where that audience is already living.”
When asked why E3 was the time they picked to announce the game, Whitfield said that he wanted to make sure they were "aligning with Netflix" to amplify both the show and the game. "They’re putting a lot of focus on Dark Crystal this year and we want to make sure we align the game as well," he added. "The series date had been revealed recently, so [E3] seemed like a great opportunity to announce the existence of the game. And Nintendo has been an awesome partner, and we got amazing placement at the Nintendo Direct.”
Dave Pottinger also said that Nintendo has been "fantastic," noting that the developer has been building a "pretty good relationship with them." He added that Nintendo has done a "great job cultivating the indie crowd" and noted that Nintendo was "very excited" about a new "Dark Crystal" game.
PUBLISHER RELATIONS: On the topic of En Masse's relationships with console makers, Whitfield said the company's relations with Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are "extremely positive." "We have some great partners over at each of the first parties," he said, adding that En Masse meets with those companies regularly to discuss opportunities.
On the same topic, BonusXP's Pottinger said he takes a "very broad look" at platforms. "We don’t think about any one specific platform because we’d like our games to be playable by everyone," he told The Fly. "Each platform has its unique selling points and reasons why people like it.”
STREAMING: David Whitfield said that En Masse currently has no plans just yet to put their games on any game streaming platform, such as Google (GOOG) Stadia or Microsoft's Project xCloud. "We’re kind of evaluating and learning more about those platforms and what the potential audience is going to be," he said. "It’s definitely interesting, it’s something we’re looking into. But not planning [anything] currently.” BonusXP's Dave Pottinger said in a previous interview with The Fly that he is "intrigued" by Google Stadia, but that they want to let the technology "settle out a little bit."
SUBSCRIPTION: When asked about whether En Masse is looking to make their games available on any subscription platforms, such as Xbox Game Pass or Ubisoft's (UBSFY) upcoming UPLAY+, David Whitfield said that the publisher does not have any plans "at this point in time." "Same as streaming: definitely looking into it, evaluating it, but no current plans," he said.
On the same topic, Dave Pottinger said that it comes down to the business side of the deal. "It’s not entirely clear the long-term way that you generate a hit in something like that," he said. "We’ve talked to everybody who has a subscription system like that, and there’s always an intriguing proposition that comes down ‘are we going to get the game out to enough fans versus the revenue that we’re going to get from it.’ Some of the new ones in particular haven’t been clear enough and they’re still figuring out how they’re going to reward a hit game versus a game that’s just there. For us, we haven’t made the decision to do one yet because it hasn’t been the right decision yet.”
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Keywords: dark crystal, video game, netflix, e3, switch, nintendo, stadia, game pass