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A fascinating news story recently made the rounds. It was reported that THQ Nordic and Koch Media have made an NFL-style trade, swapping the rights to dormant games franchises. The trade saw THQ Nordic acquire the rights to Second Sight, Risen, Sacred, Rush for Berlin and the brilliantly titled Singles: Flirt Up Your Life in exchange for Painkiller and Red Faction.
This may well be a one-off, but then again, every common practice started life as a novel occurrence. Needless to say, this story sent our imaginations into overdrive – What if this does become a regular business practice? Which franchises should be gifted new publishers? Which publisher could make the best use of otherwise wasted IPs?
After much deliberation and careful contemplation, we have found our answers.
Split/Second Velocity traded to EA
In 2010 Disney Interactive Studios decided to dip its toe into the popular racing genre with the release of Split/Second: Velocity and the results were incredible. This racer took place in a specially created city where much of the infrastructure was rigged with explosives.
As players drove, they could acquire Power Plays which would allow them to take out the competition by causing wanton acts of destruction such as collapsing bridges, blowing holes in walls and even crashing aeroplanes. Of course, if these actions were not properly timed, they could miss the opposition or even cause the player to wreck their own car! In essence, this is Mario Kart as envisioned by Michael Bay.
EA would be the obvious choice to get this series back on track. The company has a pedigree that few can rival when it comes to long-running arcade racing franchises, perhaps most notably Need for Speed and Burnout. With the company's focus on online modes and regularly updated challenges in its other titles, the return of Split/Second: Velocity under the EA banner could be exactly what the racing genre needs right now.
Sleeping Dogs traded to SEGA
Sleeping Dogs (2012) is a game we'll always remember for two reasons. First, giving us such immortal phrases as “You look like you could use a pork bun” and “A man who never eats a pork bun is never a whole man”. Second, though less importantly, creating a bustling Hong Kong to house the thrilling tale of undercover cop Wei Shen's attempts to infiltrate and bring down a triad organisation. Unfortunately, developer Square-Enix is a sucker for wise old proverbs and decided to let Sleeping Dogs lie since its debut.
Even though SEGA has not released a GTA-esque franchise, there's no doubt that they have the resources and capability to deliver one. The main reason SEGA has been singled out as the best option for this IP is due to the Yakuza series – a series that boasts gritty crime drama, versatile combat, silly but fun side-activities and recreations of city districts that feel alive with warmth.
If SEGA could expand and build on all of these elements across Sleeping Dogs' Hong Kong, they could create the even bigger and better sequel that fans have been crying out for since 2012.
Bayonetta traded to Capcom
This entry is going to sound critical of Nintendo, but not unfairly so. If it helps, there's also some good things to say both here and in a later entry. Think of this as a compliment sandwich, but if two thirds of the way through making the sandwich you had to answer the door to take a delivery, lectured the courier about two games you really like until he faked an important phone call before hastily driving away, then came back and finished the sandwich.
In 2010 Platinum Games released Bayonetta and redefined what an action game should be. Considered a cousin of the Devil May Cry series, this game boasted violent, frantic, creative combat that not only made an instant star of its titular heroine, but placed developer Platinum Games' star firmly on the map. After underwhelming in the sales department, publisher SEGA showed little interest in continuing the series, availing Nintendo the opportunity to pick it up and make the series exclusive to its consoles.
This was a savvy business move that allowed a great game to live on past one shining moment and made a lot of fans very grateful. On the other hand, from the point of view of many consumers, Nintendo is just about the worst publisher that could hold this licence. Let's face it, mature games are not Nintendo's forte.
Anyone who picks up a Wii U for Bayonetta 2 (2014) or a Switch for the long promised Bayonetta 3 but isn't a fan of Nintendo's usual colourful, family friendly output will quickly find that console gathering dust because there are no other worthwhile exclusives targeted at an adult audience.
On top of that (and here comes that sandwich filling), for the last 15 years or so, Nintendo has been half a generation behind the competition and opted for controllers that favour gimmicks over comfort or ease of use, so when playing something as frenetic and detailed as a Bayonetta game, it's easy to feel like you'd rather be playing it on almost any other platform.
We could have chosen pretty much any publisher that would make these games a multi-platform release, but have opted for Capcom as the ideal choice due to its excellent production of Devil May Cry 5 (2019) and the fact that having both franchises under one banner could lead to some interesting crossover opportunities.
Mega Man traded to Microsoft Studios
The Xbox has a certain image associated with it. It's not a bad image by any means, but when your three biggest properties are Forza, Halo and Gears of War, that 'cars, guns and more guns' reputation can appeal to some more than others, or to be more specific, it risks alienating the younger audience, as well as retro gamers.
Microsoft has made many attempts to right this, trying to create a mascot in the vein of a Mario, Crash Bandicoot or Sonic to be the friendly face of Xbox, but none have caught on. This means that while Master Chief and Marcus Phoenix have led the charge in the ongoing console wars, the likes of Max, Lucky and Voodoo Vince lie strewn and abandoned on the side of the road.
So if Microsoft can't create its own beloved family friendly mascot, why not take someone else's? Mega Man is one of the biggest icons of 80s and 90s gaming, but hasn't done a whole lot as of late. Following 2010's Mega Man 10 it took eight years before Capcom released Mega Man 11 (2018) which was met with tepid reviews.
With Microsoft's staggering resources at his back, the Blue Bomber would have every chance of reliving his glory years, be it in the form of a faithful retro platformer or an ambitious move to 3D.
Shadow Hearts traded to Square-Enix
The Shadow Hearts trilogy on PS2 is legendary amongst JRPG fanatics. The series stood apart from its peers with a dark tone and early 20th century real world setting. Not only did it tick all the boxes that a JRPG should, it also introduced one of the most ingenious tweaks to turn-based combat in history – the Judgement Ring. This system meant that whether an attack missed, hit or did critical damage was largely determined by the player's skill and co-ordiantion rather than by a roll of the dice.
Square-Enix is undoubtedly the best in the world when it comes to top-tier Japanese Role-Playing Games, with a back catalogue that speaks for itself.
Right now, the publisher appears to be high on remasters and remakes, so what better time to get hold of Shadow Hearts? A remastered trilogy on current generation consoles? Yes, please! A honest to goodness Shadow Hearts 4 to follow? Oh, if you insist Square-Enix, you overly generous bunch.
Sonic the Hedgehog traded to Nintendo
Poor Sonic – he hasn't exactly had the smoothest transition from 2D to 3D. Sure there's been a few strong efforts like Sonic Colors (2010) and Sonic Forces (2017), but the vast majority of his adventures have been critical flops such as... almost every other Sonic game of the last two decades.
Perhaps it's time for the folks at SEGA to let their old rivals at Nintendo take the reigns. One thing we all know about Nintendo is it knows how to treat its mascots – when was the last time you saw a Mario or Zelda game get a bad review? Under this new direction, perhaps Sonic could finally get his defining must-have 3D adventure.
Of course, this is probably the most unlikely exchange on the entire list – Sonic is still SEGA's mascot and most profitable franchise, so handing him over to anyone is preposterous. That being said, with the right trade on the table, you never know. In fact Nintendo, you seem to have a fox, gorilla and adorable pink vacuum-ball that are barely being used... maybe it's time to make an offer.
Pandora's Tower traded to Sony
Pandora's Tower (2012) is a grim action-adventure about a soldier who has to fight through a series of towers defeating a series of grotesque monsters, including each tower's gigantic 'Master' in order to obtain their flesh. This flesh must then be given to the protagonist's girlfriend, Elena for her to eat.
You see, Elena has been cursed and the only thing that can delay her transformation into one of these monstrosities is eating the flesh defeated monsters. This situation is made worse by the fact that Elean's culture forbids eating meat, so her reaction in these scenes where she's forced to consume the flesh feel like a punch in the gut.
If this is your first time hearing about Pandora's Tower, we can guarantee you didn't guess that this IP is owned by Nintendo. In fact, it's more likely that visions of Dark Souls danced in your head.
Originally a Japan-only release for the Wii before reaching western territories over the next two years as a result of a fan petition, the game failed to impress in terms of sales and has long-since been abandoned by its publisher.
A story like this would be a far better fit in the hands of Sony, a company who, with major releases such as Bloodborne (2015), The Last of Us (2013) and God of War (2018), has shown time and time again that it can produce commercial and critical success from bleak, mature and sobering tales.
Remember Me traded to Ubisoft
This is the second franchise we've fantasy stripped away from Capcom and while we weren't intending to single out any one publisher... Come on Capcom, you have been kind of napping on a lot of great franchises. You're just lucky we didn't mention Okami or Breath of Fire... Oops.
Never mind them, the Capcom series we most want to see in new hands is Remember Me (2013). In this game, players took control of Nilin, an amnesiac protagonist traversing the city of Neo-Paris in 2084 with the goal of unlocking her memory and gaining revenge on those who tried to steal her past.
While this was a great linear eight to ten hour adventure, the story, presentation and setting deserves much more, it deserves the Assassin's Creed treatment. It should be a huge open world brimming with life, with traversable buildings, plenty of side-quests and opportunities to make use of Nilin's ability re-write people's memories to affect their actions in the present.
Also, these re-writing opportunities should have multiple solutions with different results affecting the story in different ways. Is that all too much to ask? Probably, but we have faith in you Ubisoft, if anyone can do this it's you.
Prince of Persia traded to Square-Enix
One of the most influential game series of all time, Prince of Persia set the standard for action adventures, but has faded into obscurity in recent years after a bevy of sub-par releases showed that the once proud Prince was unable to retain his throne against mightier competition.
Now that the likes of Kratos and Nathan Drake have grown up, chilled out and settled down, perhaps there's a gap in the market for the Prince's light-hearted, acrobatic adventuring - but now with all the cinematic excitement that brought the Uncharted series such renown.
With that being said, you may be wondering why this franchise should go to Square-Enix rather than Sony. There are three very good reasons:
1 – Square-Enix is better suited to produce a fun, light-hearted adventure rather than a mature, realistic one, and if there's one thing this series has taught us, it's that Prince of Persia should not 'go darker'.
2 – Square-Enix has done an excellent job this generation of rejuvenating once great franchises seemingly lost to history, most notably Hitman and Tomb Raider
3 – Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015). A game that can not only stand toe to toe with any Uncharted game for heart-in-mouth thrills, but is rife with distractions and optional tombs that utilise inspiring puzzle design. This is essentially a template for what a Prince of Persia return should be.
Castlevania traded to Platinum Games
Yes, you're absolutely right, Platinum Games is not a publisher, it's a developer. However, studio heads have stated in numerous interviews that their goal is to begin self-publishing and the studio recently acquired a sizable investment to help them achieve that goal. So if a company is going to make its grand debut as a publisher, what better way than to bring one of gaming's most venerated franchises back from the dead?
Like Sonic the Hedgehog, Castlevania faced hurdles in making the transition from 2D to 3D, so after a handful of mediocre releases, it's still the mid-90s 2D titles that are considered the series' glory days. Like so many Konami IPs, Castlevania is benched indefinitely, with no prospect of seeing the light of day any time soon (which the series' famed antagonist must be thrilled about).
If only the people at Platinum Games could work their magic on this one though... They've proven beyond a doubt that no one is better at creating high octane action games, and one example in particular shows that they would be the perfect team for this project: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (2013).
At the time, few series were as protected as Metal Gear and the thought of an entry from the hands of anyone but Hideo Kojima was considered sacrilege, yet not only was Platinum Games entrusted with this precious bundle, but it put the franchise's most derided character at the helm and transformed Raiden from punchline to Metal Gear Fonzie in a critically acclaimed game that's still celebrated today. So just imagine what the developer could do with a huge budget, next-gen technology and a Belmont.
Fans have waited a long time for something that can live up to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997), and we know that if Platinum Games got its hands of that franchise, those days of waiting would be numbered.
Do you agree with our choices? Do you have any fantasy trades of your own that you're bursting to share? Join the conversation below and let us know!
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