Judge Dredd has found his way back into headlines this week. While a follow up to 2012’s Dredd has been in talks for years, the videogame front has been pretty quiet. Suddenly, not only is Dredd producer Adi Shinkar talking more about the inevitability of Dredd 2, but Rebellion, the rights holders to 2000AD (the comic book brand umbrella containing Judge Dredd) have also made major news. Rebellion, claiming to be at capacity in game development, has essentially issued an open challenge to developers and publishers to come to them with ideas for new 2000AD games. This is a heck of a coincidence, and I could see the Dredd IP gaining a ton of value if the right things happen at the right time.
In Hollywood, Judge Dredd is an underdog story. We all know about the awful Sylvester Stallone flick from the 90s, but a bit lesser known is the 2012 revival with Karl Urban in the starring role. Dredd was a really great adaptation of the character, but unfortunately a bit of a box office flop. However, as with many movies that appeal to niche audiences, the money started to flow in after the home release dropped, thanks to word of mouth and streaming services. This has led to renewed talks of Dredd 2 becoming a reality, as well as Shankar saying he will make sure it happens, although perhaps not necessarily in live action form.
Judge Dredd’s video game tenure is also shaky, but not without merit. The first game hit in 1995 and, of course, was a tie-in with the film. It was a pretty bog-standard run and gun affair; it wasn’t terrible, but you’d want to play Contra III instead. Years later, Rebellion Developments purchased in its entirety the 2000AD brand. Historically a showcase for up and coming British comics talent, Judge Dredd was born here back in the 70’s. Rebellion ran publishing for the comics and released Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death in 2003. This was a lower-rent shooter sold at a budget price, but was received fairly well and is remembered fondly by the fans.
Rebellion has made much more of a name for itself as a developer since 2003. Sniper Elite is a big brand now, and the latest title has AAA-level buzz and marketing behind it. It has come a long way and, in wake of Dredd being more of a cult hero as well, one wonders what’s next? Recently, 2000AD had an event called the “40 Years of Thrill Power Festival,” and Rebellion’s Jason Kingsley made an intriguing announcement concerning the variety of indie comics IP sitting on the shelf. 2000AD is now open to licensing deals, rather than Rebellion handling it all in-house.
Sniper Elite‘s success likely means Rebellion would rather focus on that kind of game for the foreseeable future, with no resources left on riskier, but still potentially viable prospects. 2000AD obviously contains other properties, but with its own dedicated sister publication, Judge Dredd sits as the publisher’s Batman equivalent.
The timing here feels serendipitous. Dredd 2 is gaining momentum at the same time Rebellion is putting the 2000AD IPs out there in the game development wild west. This could be the opportunity for something big, perhaps something along the lines of a Batman: Arkham Asylum. Superhero games were a crapshoot when Dredd vs Death was fresh, but now expectations are higher. Multimedia IP has more value than ever and we live in a post-Guardians of the Galaxy world. Weird is good, and weird is money. Dredd is weird. Dredd 2 has the potential to be even more weird and depending on how things go, have the backing of a Netflix, Amazon or other content provider.
On the other hand, the relationship between video games and movies is still turbulent. The Assassin’s Creed movie was a bomb, both financially and critically. The Last of Us movie is still TBA in terms of literally anything. The only actually relevant franchise, Resident Evil, doesn’t have the most consistent reputation. Dredd 2 is a hard sell, despite the word of mouth, and a new Judge Dredd game could easily be some wasteful dreck quietly dumped onto the PlayStation Network. (Shout-out to the Expendables 2 videogame!) This is rocky territory with the potential to be good, but a margin of error many investors may not want to deal with.
Who knows, maybe the stars align and something ridiculous like Telltale Games: Judge Dredd could take us all off guard in 2018. Stranger things have happened.