I have been thinking on this subject for a little while, and have come up with five points I think could make these types of games more successful, in quality terms not units sold. There has been a lot of trash from E.T. to the present day, a hand full of decent games, and then a very small selection of games that are great. The two that spring to mind for me are Rockstar's The Warriors and Starbreeze's Chronicles of Riddick, Escape from Butcher Bay. I will be using them a bit to make my points, but will also bring up other games.
Point 1. Have a production team that cares about and has a passion for the property.
Both games I mention do this. Another game that was decent that did the same was The Thing. All three of these games were made by teams that actually cared about the property's, in fact going back to older movies to make a game based on something they were passionate about and movies they loved as much as the average guy at home. These were movies they enjoyed, and games they wanted to play.When more company's make movie games for that reason instead of just bidding for the rights for a hot or popular property (like Sega did with the Marvel produced Marvel movies) then the quality and respectability of these games should increase.
Point 2. Give us a reason to think the game will add to our enjoyment of a franchise or character/s.
In other words, when I leave the theater or turn off the DVD I want an experience that adds to and enhances the original product, not just tell the same exact story with some gameplay mechanics thrown in. That is why we want sequels right? So why not apply that theory to the games and other marketing ideas as well. Again I bring up The Warriors, where you get background on all the characters, pretty much a full length story and game leading up to the events of the movie, plus a whole section of the game based on the movie. It satisfied the same desires that sequels and prequels do,it expanded the fiction and the world it is set in and sent me away with twice as much knowledge as I had about the characters and setting before playing.
Point 3. Release the game when it is ready,not rushed for opening weekend.
I think this one is obvious, and is one of the biggest issues with failed movie games. In the rush to have it out with the movie (to gather the most sales) The production is rushed and everything is on a deadline. Why not let the game fully develop? If the game is good who cares if its six months to a year later? Unless its a forgettable property people will still pick it up and maybe even be a little more hungry for the chance to revisit the property in game form. If I have come to expect anything over the years its that most movie games are rushed out like it's acknowledged that they will bad in the hopes of everyone buying it the minute they get out the theaters before realizing they were duped into buying one more horrible licensed game. If the game is good it does not need the hype of opening weekend to sell it.
Point 4. Sometimes it pays to have the right development team,not the highest bidder.
Sega as I mentioned did whatever is done in the videogame world to acquire rights, and we ended up with the crapfest and broken gameplay that is Iron Man. On the other hand, X-Men Origins:Wolverine is a success,and it actually breaks all the rules I set forth. Why? Because the license was handed to Ravensoft who after two X-Men games and Marvel:Ultimate Alliance have proven they know how to make a good superhero game in general and know the character in particular. Sometimes it just needs to be put in the hands of a team that already knows what they are doing. If they already know what they are doing and have done that sort thing before, sometimes that trumps originality or development time, especially if the studio wants the game rushed.
Point 5. Make a game that can stand on its own.
This is the most important thing. After the license and fan service, do you have a good game? And I do not mean competent, I mean good. A good example though not a movie is the last Simpsons Game. If you like them it's a game you must play,and you never really get bored because its not a horrible game. But strip away the license and it's depressingly average. You might as well play Ratchet and Clank. And that is the thing,when you strip away the license,is it still a good game? And I return to my primary examples. If you take out Vin Diesel, the character based on him and the mythology, You still have a groundbreaking mix of stealth and FPS in a story based on escaping the toughest prison planet in the galaxy. Same with The Warriors. Strip away the movie characters and names, the references and storylines. And you still have a late 70's early 80's comic style extravaganza of gangs, street crime and the best beat'em up action since the SNES/Genesis era. So make a game that is worth playing, and the license is just icing on the cake.
So those are my thoughts. This is just a surface examination, but I honestly think even following these five simple steps could greatly enhance the amount of good licensed movie games. I know I am no expert, but the games that have followed those criteria were not only enjoyable to me but lots of other people that play games from everything I have read and conversations I have had.
So thats my two cents,