While it’s a practice that ebbs and flows with each new console cycle, making video games based off of the latest big movie is a tradition going back to the earliest days of the NES and Atari 2600. Such was the task handed to Australian development studio Pandemic by distributor Electronic Arts in 2007. Pandemic was to design a blockbuster video game adaptation of what would become the highest grossing movie of 2008: Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Unfortunately, a game based on the film would never come to pass, due to a laundry list of both bad decisions and unlucky breaks.
Even though the world will never get to play The Dark Knight video game, the curious can now at least check out some early footage and concept art of the title in the video above, courtesy of the YouTube channel DidYouKnowGaming? Surrounding the footage is a thorough breakdown of what exactly caused the project’s demise, and the whole clip is worth watching for anyone interested. Those without the time or inclination to watch the whole 13-minute affair can read on for some of the highlights of how what should have been one of the biggest games of its year never even reached store shelves.
One problem occurring early in the development process was a lack of supplied materials from Warner Bros. as to how the film, its characters, and vehicles would appear. This led to the Pandemic team beginning preliminary designing of Gotham City locales and NPCs using the same style as Eurocom’s Batman Begins game, which had also been published by Electronic Arts. That game was released for PS2 and Xbox, meaning that Pandemic was using outdated hardware to create new elements, despite the fact that The Dark Knight game was planned to release on then-current consoles PS3 and Xbox 360.
Once Pandemic finally settled on a current gen engine to use — Odin, the same open-world engine behind fellow Pandemic/EA game The Saboteur — things quickly went from bad to worse. Odin’s capabilities had been oversold to the Dark Knight team, and was not playing well at all with the game elements they had created up to that point. Apparently, the frame rate would sometimes dip to an astonishingly low 5fps when too many characters were present on-screen, which clearly isn’t a good thing, especially when you’re trying to design gaming’s first ever open-world rendition of Gotham City.
To make a long story short(er), EA eventually decided to delay The Dark Knight game to December 2008, putting it in line with the film’s home video release instead of the originally planned theatrical release tie-in. Oddly enough, the title had yet to be officially announced to the public until actor Gary Oldman spilled the beans during an interview with G4, not pleasing EA at all. This put the company in the odd position of finally dropping the axe on the troubled project in October 2008, despite having never even officially announced that it was in the works.
Would The Dark Knight video game have been a hit? Probably. Consumers at large were still riding the wave caused by The Dark Knight’s popularity well into early 2009, with the film being widely seen as a must-have title for those looking to show off their home theater systems. In fact, estimates at the time suggested that EA lost over $100 million by not getting the game to market in 2008. It’s no wonder, then, why EA dissolved Pandemic Australia shortly after TDK’s cancellation. If nothing else, at least the Caped Crusader would eventually get his next-gen video game due via the Batman: Arkham series.