Dark Horse has found some success in the film and television industry with the likes of 300, Sin City, the Hellboy films from acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro and more recently, The Umbrella Academy series now streaming on Netflix.
The publisher, however, has yet to duplicate this in the interactive space. Hellboy did land a coveted guest spot in Injustice 2, but thus far his headlining adventures have amounted to a poor man’s Resident Evil knock off and a forgettable brawler whose saving grace was that it included the likes of Ron Perlman, Doug Jones and Selma Blair in its cast. 300 received little more than a tie-in for the PSP in 2007 when it landed in theaters, while titles based on Sin City were cancelled before they ever got released.
Dark Horse is now placing its fate in its own hands with a new division, aptly titled Dark Horse Games, that will both license the companies’ properties out to other studios – similar to what Disney does with Marvel and Star Wars – and develop their own games internally. Dark Horse Games will have offices in Oregon as well as Shanghai, and in the words of general manager Johnny Lee, they’re “…very focused on finding the right game development partner for top IPs,” with the intention of getting their properties onto consoles, PC, mobile and streaming services, presumably Google Stadia and Amazon Luna.
While they build up their own internal development team, Dark Horse Games will largely focus on finding the right partners to bring their franchises into video games. “We have evergreen properties, like Hellboy, where there will always be interest in making games and doing collaborations,” said Lee, adding “We and our partners can really evaluate if a story IP and character universe would be a good fit for games that they’re internally designing and developing. I think most triple-A devs that I’ve talked to prefer their game dev team to build core gameplay and then fit an IP to it, versus shoving an IP down their throats. We’re sensitive to that.”
Dark Horse Games is keen to avoid the mistakes of the past such as 2008’s Hellboy: The Science of Evil from publisher Konami, a title that suffered as many licensed games did during that era in that it was clearly pushed out to tie into the release of a major motion picture. Lee stated that not only are AAA studios being considered as partners, but indie outlets too. “We are speaking to all types of developers and we are open to all kinds of creative ideas, even some indie studios with cool ideas around our IPs,…We right now have spent a lot of time on finding the rights in game collaborations at the triple-A level where the stories and the characters fit. We are in late-stage discussions with several of them. And so if those go well, you’ll see pretty big Dark Horse Comics characters in live triple-A games no later than the end of Q1 next year.”