Not for the first time in the history of the Transformers brand, part of the vast merchandising machine seems to be in a state of limbo. Transformers has embraced all forms of media since their inception – television, movies, comic books, music. And right there since the beginning has been the humble video game. While Transformers games have been with us since the early 8-bit era, we haven’t always had games around accompanying modern gaming platforms. Right now there’s a Transformers video games lull that we haven’t seen for a long time. Is this a blip or a sign of a change in the games industry as a whole?
Have We Seen A Transformers Video Games Lull Before?
There has been an incredible number of Transformers games released over the last 35 years. At one time it seemed as if every popular computer or console was destined to see a Transformers game released for it. But strangely that wasn’t the case. Despite the franchise having its roots in Japan and the Transformers brand itself originating in America, the first Transformers game actually came from the UK. It wasn’t even released for consoles. Instead it was published for two home computers – the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. It wasn’t for another year until 1986 when Transformers made its console debut.
Another home computer game was released for the Commodore 64, but 1986 saw the first of two Japanese exclusive games for the Famicom (NES). First was for the Famicom itself and the second, a year later, was a disk release for the Famicom Disk System. Things certainly seemed vibrant and while these were the last games of the 8-bit era it hinted that Transformers and video games could be match made in heaven.
The Honeymoon Period Was Over
Then the 16-bit era came and went. The truth is that after the original G1 television series ended, Transformers mainstream appeal dwindled. Yes, toys were still being produced and the comic – or at least the UK comic – was still being published, but the brand wasn’t as big as it used to be. While the loyal fanbase was still there, to many they were the toys that “used to be around a few years ago”. Taking a gamble on the Transformers license was just too big a risk for most publishers. There were rumours of a planned game for the SNES but nothing left the drawing board. So the entire 16-bit era – console and computer – went through a Transformers video games lull that lasted right through until the latter half of the 1990s…
Until Beast Wars came along… The new TV show and toy line reinvigorated the franchise. It brought in a whole new generation of fans to Transformers and other fans back who had drifted away. More importantly it brought with it a new wave of games for a new generation of consoles. PC, PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and Gameboy Color. There was a diverse range of games released across the globe from a range of publishers, each appealing to a different type of gamer.
Since that time, we’ve had games based on the movies, G1, Transformers Animated, Armada, Transformers Prime and original works such as the War For Cybertron series. From the PlayStation 2 onwards there’s been no slowdown of games for well over a decade with an incredibly diverse range of games. As a hardened collector it made it expensive to keep on top of them all but it was great all the same. But then, after one of the most faithful G1 games we had seen ever, Transformers Devastation, things went wrong…
Activision’s deal with Hasbro expired at the beginning of 2018. This had been a license that had been in place for well over a decade. For Hasbro to not renew this would imply that they weren’t happy with Activision in some way. It left the War For Cybertron game series in limbo (and the third game in the series had left fans somewhat disappointed), and to-date Hasbro still haven’t announced a new license holder. The only games that have been released since this time have been mobile phone apps so there has been nothing new since 2015. All of Activision’s releases have also been removed from all digital game platforms including Steam and the PlayStation Network.
The Transformers video games lull doesn’t seem to be limited to just PC and console gaming either. Online slots players haven’t seen anything new released since the release of Transformers: Battle for Cybertron from IGT back in 2013, developed with the same design styling as Activision’s releases from the same period. An earlier G1 game, Transformers Ultimate Payback was released yet these too seem to have gone the way of their console counterparts and have disappeared completely. As for new games released recently? There are none to be found on slot sites anywhere.
Right now our only choice for new Transformers games is to look to the world of iOS and Android. Unfortunately, the majority of these are locked behind Free-To-Play paywalls or are simplistic affairs. We’re certainly not seeing the depth of gameplay or longevity that we have been used to over the last three decades. Unfortunately, while Hasbro still try to decide who Activision’s successor will be, the situation won’t get any better. The harsh reality is that we will still be in the same situation for at least another year even after an announcement is made.
Games take time to develop and even when a new publisher is in place, they won’t be able to create a AAA masterpiece overnight. If we want a good quality Transformers game, then it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see anything new now before the end of 2020. Unless Hasbro have been keeping things under wraps and developing a surprise game in-house without letting us know. Now that would be something worth shouting about.
Only time will tell…