Now that the series has reached its conclusion, Game of Thrones fans have a surplus of passion for the franchise that could be channeled into other outlets. Part of that love for GoT can be converted into anticipation for the upcoming Westeros-based prequel series, although the scarcity of details about the show may temper excitement for now. Ideally, GoT fans would be able to dive into an open-world video game inspired by the series, but unfortunately, there are currently no plans to create such a game.
The frustration at the lack of a GoT RPG was heightened a couple of years ago by rumors that Bethesda was on board to develop a game based on A Song of Ice and Fire. That rumor was particularly tantalizing given Bethesda’s success in devising The Elder Scrolls series, so it was disappointing for fans when it was proven to be baseless.
In many ways, the television show appears perfectly suited for an open-world RPG. Few, if any, television series feature different plots developing concurrently in so many diverse locales. The show succeeded in immersing viewers in those disparate environments, but there’s only so much you can see in a one-hour episode. An open-world video game would allow fans to spend more time exploring what makes various regions of Westeros tick.
The RPG element also appears to make perfect sense. With every betrayal and every murder, there is a curiosity about what would happen if a character did the exact opposite. An RPG would allow gamers to decide whether they wanted to be (or at least try to be) completely virtuous, or embrace being a Tywin Lannisteresque character.
Yet, what makes two compelling reasons to develop a GoT-inspired video game are also two reasons why it may never happen.
GoT found its identity as a television series very quickly. Early episodes invited inevitable comparisons with Lord of the Rings, simply because of the fantastical elements and the pseudo-medieval world. Yet GoT quickly shattered those parallels with its shocking scenes and its characters’ dark sides. Instead, GoT is a point of comparison for any future television that merges fantasy, politics, and war.
Bethesda was reportedly asked to adapt George R.R. Martin’s books before the television show had even begun production, but the studio decided to pursue a game with their own characters and locations: Skyrim. Dragons? Battles? Politics? Magic? So much of what makes GoT a great series is what makes Skyrim a great game. While GoT the TV series was able to shake off comparisons with LotR by providing something unique, the same just doesn’t seem feasible in terms of gaming.
What are the stakes?
Controlling one character through a Westeros-based storyline may sound appealing, but developers would face a difficult task of devising suitable quests and objectives that stay true to the series. Sitting on the Iron Throne seems like the ultimate goal, but there is a risk that this would feel too telegraphed. An RPG requires a fine balance between free choice and an overarching structure, so giving the player enough agency in a GoT-inspired world might prove impossible.
The television series was so compelling because of its willingness to ruthlessly dispose of characters. However, dying a permanent death rather kills the momentum of a video game. This could be counteracted to an extent by allowing players to control a house, an idea mooted by a GoT fan for Metro. When one character dies, the player could switch to take control of another. That sounds feasible as a concept, but it might be difficult to execute.
Successful GoT games
A franchise as popular as Game of Thrones is always going to inspire a range of gaming spin-offs. It is notable that, of these, those proven most successful are those that stay firmly away from open-world elements. That is the case with the Game of Thrones Online Slot, part of the selection of games available at Viking Slots. The game retains the relatively simple mechanics of a slot machine at its core, albeit with licensed images, sounds and characters taken from the television show. Players still have to make important choices; deciding which house to join has consequences, with each family unlocking specific bonuses.
This works because the game doesn’t force you to rehash narratives from the television series. The same applies to Reigns: Game of Thrones, a spin-off from the indie strategy genre. This charmingly simple game places the player on the Iron Throne, whereupon they have to make a series of decisions to retain power. Reigns works because it throws up a string of hypotheticals based on what might happen if different characters sat on the throne. It doesn’t try to be a complex recreation of Westeros political maneuvering and, for that reason, it works.
Of course, such is GoT’s popularity that it would be unwise to completely rule out the development of an open-world RPG. After all, fans who have been calling for a similar LotR release have finally got their wish; Amazon is collaborating with Athlon Games to produce a free-to-play MMO set well before the events of the movie trilogy.
If that LotR game is successful, it may set the wheels in motion for a similar GoT MMO. However, a GoT open-world RPG sadly looks nowhere near as certain to arrive as winter did.