Since 1983, if you average it out, a new Trek game title has hit shelves every five months. With a persistent emphasis on strategy, the strongest Trek game successes were with PC games even as the console era took hold. Still, no matter the format, Starfleet games have never delivered a break-out commercial success, much less any era-defining game. Look at the 55 games that IGN put into its Video Game Hall of Fame, for instance, and you’ll see four Super Mario titles, three Legend of Zelda games and two for Star Wars — but not a single Trek title. In 2010, Star Trek Online debuted as a massively multiplayer online role-playing game and the reviews were mixed, suggesting the game was respected more than it was enjoyed.
For Trek fans, who were geeky when geeky wasn’t cool, the games still provided plenty of shining moments that transported them to the universe they loved. One of those diehard fans is Roberto Orci, a key member of the writing team for both the 2009 Trek film and its upcoming sequel, a true believer who says titles such as Star Trek: Bridge Commander from 2002 deserved a wider audience than they got.
“I have played many Trek games over the years and enjoyed some of them quite a lot and didn’t always understand why other people and the mainstream video-game audience didn’t enjoy them more,” Orci says. “I was enough of a nerd that I really got into them. But the hope is that with this one we have the best of both worlds.”
Perhaps, but Paramount will have to show it’s capable of warp speed on its first mission with a major console game. It’s not that easy to do — rival Universal made a similar bid a few years ago with a tie-in game title for Wanted and has never tried again. Also, in 2009, Paramount released a downloadable game along with the first Abrams movie and was met with shrugs or jeers, but that undertaking was a far less concerted effort than this new bid.
“It’s the same challenge we faced as a studio when we were rebooting the franchise,” Miller says. “And that challenge was: How do you appeal to a very broad audience but also at the same time satisfy the Star Trek fan and the Trekkie who has really supported us for the last 40-plus years as well? You watch the movie and see that it’s a really broad action and adventure and narrative and great comedy — we took the same approach to the game. We wanted to make it a great game period … let’s make sure it’s authentic, let’s make sure that gamers just enjoy playing the game, but also let’s make sure that the Star Trek fan who is [playing] gets the little extra hints that show we’re passionate about the brand and we care about it just as much as they do.”