Ratchet & Clank hasn’t quite been the same since 2009’s outstanding A Crack in Time. While we applaud series creator Insomniac Games for experimenting with different approaches, both All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault struggled to live up to the admittedly lofty expectations set by the series’ sensational predecessors. With half an eye on its first multiplatform title, it’s felt a lot like the Burbank-based studio has been phoning in its efforts for a while, using the brand power of its most popular franchise in an effort to build up a war chest ahead of Fuse’s launch later this year.
However, yesterday’s surprise movie announcement served as a reminder that Ratchet & Clank is still relevant, popular, and, above all else, worth getting excited about again. The outpouring of anticipation regarding the flick’s tasty teaser trailer has been almost overwhelming, with many long-term followers seemingly shaken out of stasis. With less than two minutes of footage, Insomniac Games has managed to jolt the franchise’s fanbase prompter than a swift lash of Up Your Arsenal’s lethal Omega Quantum Whip. And it’s refreshing to see people animated about gaming’s most likeable Lombax after such a long time, particularly with the PlayStation 4 on the horizon.
It could be the making of the series, too. Ratchet & Clank has never struggled to shift units – particularly in its native North America and, surprisingly, Japan – but a lot like the quality of the franchise’s most recent entries, its popularity has started to decline. While it’s hard to find precise figures, A Crack in Time was generally regarded as an underperformer at the time of its launch. Furthermore, we’d suspect that outside of bundles and promotions such as PlayStation Plus, the likes of All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault have found the increasingly ruthless market even tougher to penetrate. But, combined with the movie, there’s a real hope that the series could explode, and perhaps even grow to be even bigger than it was back in its heyday.
And there has to be a greater marketing plan at play here. Chatting with Variety, producer Brad Foxhoven hinted at how the movie will depict an origin story in attempt to “capture the imagination of those who will be new to this incredible world”. There’s no better opportunity to capitalise on that than by promoting the flick alongside a brand new game. The most exciting thing is that it all seems plausible, and with a good two years to go until the film’s release in 2015, it’s unlikely that Insomniac Games will be serving up a half-hearted spin-off this time around. We wouldn’t be surprised if one of its teams was already hard at work on a full PS4 entry of some kind.
We’re speculating, of course, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that the studio could be working on a new title as we type. Despite being divided into multiple groups, Fuse is the only game that’s in the Californian outfit’s current portfolio – and with its release less than a month away, we have to suspect that it’s practically finished at this point. According to Gamasutra, the company employed over 180 people as of the end of 2012. We sincerely doubt that they’re all sitting around twiddling their thumbs.
Naturally, the studio has its fingers in a lot of different pies, but this seems like too good of an opportunity to miss. Movie game tie-ins are typically terrible, but this isn’t a normal situation, and with Insomniac Games closely involved with the film’s production, it strikes us that the studio’s probably working on a new game in parallel. And that could be huge for both the franchise and the PS4, which we suspect that in 2015, the title will almost certainly be developed for. The cross-marketing potential is huge, especially if the quality of each product lives up to the franchise’s exceptionally high standards.
But perhaps most exciting is that this could blow up. Ratchet & Clank has always been an ideal movie candidate because its characters and dialogue have serious crossover appeal, and there’s a real chance for this flick to appeal to a fairly wide demographic. Furthermore, the brand has just enough cachet to ensure that it’s something that people will be talking about, and while the mainstream market may not be familiar with the franchise’s origins, the movie’s going to get a lot of free press on the back of the gaming media and existing fans of the titles. If just a tiny portion of that excitement seeps out into the wider market, it could be a particularly big 2015 for PlayStation’s premium planet-hopping partnership.
For now, though, we’re merely pleased to see the dynamic duo taking centre stage again. It’s been a rough few years for Ratchet & Clank, but the trigger-happy twosome already look like they’re back to their sharp-witted best. It would take a clanger of Captain Qwark-esque proportions to squander the series’ greatest shot at stardom now.
Are you looking forward to the Ratchet & Clank Movie? Do you think that there could be a PS4 title in the pipeline? Let us know in the comments section below.