Here was a post from Keith about different licensed themes and why they could not be done 2008:
Keith P. Johnson
Honestly it's hard to remember what other titles might've been in
contention to be made at the same time as others. Part of the problem
with the titles you mention (Elvis did VERY well, btw, despite what
people may think of the theme) is that it really seemed like there
wasn't much better to do. I'm sure something probably could've been
better than WOF, but the powers that be kept swearing it was a winner.
WPT was too late (a year previous would've been ideal especially with
the 1-season wondergirl Courtney Friel dragging the thing down).
I can tell you some of the ideas that I personally pitched and others
that I can remember...
Survivor - Joe Balcer and I started down this path until it became
evident that we couldn't get it due to the licensor ("some crazy
English guy that invented it"). We would've had the rights for the US
(only) but obvoiusly that wasn't good enough for the company. It
quickly became a choice between Futurama and The Simpsons. Futurama
was great, I really liked it (and still do), but its ratings weren't
very good for reasons known to all the fans. I was certain we could
make a better game than the DE version, which was the biggest concern
for that game (how it would be perceived on the street). We dodged a
HUGE bullet with not picking Futurama since it got cancelled before
TSPP was finished.
Captain Morgan - Wanting to do a pirate game of some kind, this was
the best I could do (years before POTC became a mega-franchise).
Everyone had a good laugh, and then we actually contacted them. They
promised to be very entertaining to work with ("Aye, who WOULDN'T want
to engage in business with the captain??"), but ultimately it was
decided it wasn't broad enough appeal.
WWTBAM - I was pitching a quick-playing $.25 game with very simple and
obvious objectives (I know this will surprise a lot of people, but to
be honest, I was probably 1 of the top 2 people always trying to keep
the casual player in mind the entire project from conception to ending
with practical approaches with Lyman being the other person). Again
eventually we couldn't get past someone in England who owned the show.
Also, again, another bullet dodged with the tankitude of the
popularity of the series due to ABC driving it into the ground.
MC Escher - The idea I'm proudest of. It was what I thought to be a
real outside-the-box title (rejected again, I might add, a few months
before layoffs, because clearly everything else the company was
picking was gold). There would be a couple wacky devices in the game,
and obviously great artwork. Stern never did anything remotely
related to pursuing this idea.
Grand Theft Auto 3 - This was a few months after GTA3 came out. I'd
played through it and thought it was one of the best games ever made.
The freedom of stuff you could do, easy and obvious tying stuff to
pinball (you got your rampage modes, your missions, your pop-up ramps
for stunt jumps, the possibilities were endless). Perhaps
understandably, the crazy British people who owned this IP weren't
interested in letting anyone else get their hands on it. If I were
them, I would've had exactly the same attitude.
Lego - This was a more recent idea that was never really seriously
pursued AFAIK. You can probably insert similar sour grapes to this
one as from MC Escher.
Harry Potter - This idea was pitched years and years ago, well before
rgp regularly got their panties in a bunch about it. I started
reading the books shortly after book 4 came out. The amount of stuff
you could do with the title is obviously awesome. Gary rejected it
repeatedly without a second thought. Until the movie came out. Then
the 2nd and 3rd which all did extremely well. Probably within the
last 2 years was the first time it was finally saught out, and then
(you guessed it), the crazy English lady who owned the IP wasn't
interested. I'm not really sure why we kept getting to stymied by
Crazy Brits; I didn't even realize how common a theme this was until I
wrote this post.
So there are some highlights. Hopefully that was entertaining enough
reading for everyone. I had forgotten about a lot of the details of
these until that question made me really start thinking about it.
This probably deserves a new post of its own, but oh well. Consider
it your reward for digging through this longass thread.