While Warner Bros. is historically known for its shows and movies, it’s easy to forget the company publishes a ton of games, many of which are based on its popular properties. Now, it seems that WB may be willing to take another shot at breaking the Superman video game curse.
During Warner Bros. Discovery’s first quarter 2023 earnings call, the company’s CEO, David Zaslav, was asked a question regarding sales of Hogwarts Legacy. To answer, Zaslav laid out quite the plan that actually didn’t have to do much with the game. Instead, he talked about a proposition to make audiences “[hang] out” in the universes of Warner Bros. IPs.
Zaslav mentioned that his company currently owns 11 different studios and has plenty of third-party studios to shop around with their IPs. He surmised that Hogwarts Legacy was so successful because it let people “go into it.” He described the game as a “tweener” (probably meant “in-betweener”) between the game and movie, and it could be a model for Warner Bros. properties going forwards. Granted, Hogwarts Legacy isn’t directly based on a Harry Potter movie but…well, moving on.
As an example, Zaslav mentioned an upcoming Superman film (it’s safe to assume he was talking about James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy). Zaslav postulated that Warner Bros could produce something where audiences “just [hang] out in the Superman world and universe” and “spend more time.”
Zaslav concluded his answer by stating that given the popularity of video games, it doesn’t make sense for Warner Bros. to “be in the motion picture and longform story business” while “someone else is in the business of hanging out in those worlds.” He is confident that his company’s IPs will be profitable in the near future, thanks in no small part to their gaming division.
Since Zaslav’s long answer was prompted by questions regarding Hogwarts Legacy and its future profitability, it’s probably safe to assume that game’s success left an impact on him. Granted, Zaslav looked at future Warner Bros game titles, and also talked about them, through the lens of business profitability, but let’s cut Zaslav some slack; he discussed the subject in an earnings call. Besides, Zaslav’s preference for speaking about business, profitability, and all those other buzzwords related to everything but creativity and the preservation of art is pretty well known at this point.
Normally, Zaslav’s plans would seem like an unwise pivot, but the seeds for a cross-medium future have already been planted. Last year, James Gunn essentially became the pilot for DC’s upcoming television programs, movies, and cartoons. Earlier this year, his responsibilities expanded to video games. He previously suggested that he wants all of DC’s upcoming properties to feature a unified continuity and cast, which would essentially make every DC game a movie tie-in (and vice versa).
This roadmap is basically what Zaslav discussed ad verbatim, which raises the question of why he mentioned letting people hang out in Superman’s world. Maybe Warner Bros. is planning a Superman game, and Zaslav subtly teased its existence without playing his hand. Given the hype surrounding Gunn’s Superman: Legacy project, that seems somewhat likely, and maybe the success of Hogwarts Legacy served as the impetus to greenlight such a project.
Heck, maybe Warner Bros. will task Avalanche Software to develop the hypothetical game since the company’s staff already proved they can handle one popular IP. Again, though, Hogwarts Legacy arguably benefited from not being directly tied to an existing Wizarding World story. Whether or not that hypothetical Superman game would be directly based on the movie or set somewhere “around it” (as Gunn previously suggested) remains to be seen.
While Hogwarts Legacy might have started the ball rolling for Warner Bros, it’s up to the company and the studios it charges with maintaining that game tie-in momentum. Will the Superman: Legacy game (or whatever else Warner Bros. has up its sleeve) vindicate Zaslav’s dreams, or will WB soon learn that making a truly great Superman game has historically been incredibly difficult? Only time will tell.