[WARNING! This post will contain spoilers for Batman: Arkham Knight.]
Well before Rocksteady Studios had even announced that they were returning to the Batman: Arkham franchise, Bruce Wayne/Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy had already spilled the beans. It may not have been intentional, but Conroy confirmed work on a project with Rocksteady saying that part of the reason he wasn’t doing the voice for Batman: Arkham Origins was because he was working on this unannounced game.
For a while some thought that Conroy was simply spreading rumors, but eventually Rocksteady Studios did announce Batman: Arkham Knight and confirmed Conroy’s prior spoiler. However, after having one major piece of their game spoiled ahead of time, Rocksteady went into the promotional push and final development cycle of Arkham Knight with a new approach: keep as much a secret as possible.
Video Games Can Prevent Spoilers
Now, when it comes to movies it’s become extremely difficult to keep anything a secret. From the identity of Benedict Cumberbatch’s character in Star Trek Into Darkness to the big twist in this month’s Terminator: Genisys, filmmakers desire to preserve the cinematic experience and studios’ need to generate money are always at odds with each other. One entity wants to reveal nothing, and the other wants to ensure enough is shown to make audiences interested.
With video games, however, the selling point is typically the gameplay first and foremost. Publishers and marketing teams can get gamers excited for a project without revealing too much. They can show some highlights, but preserve the most important pieces for the first playthrough. So, while Rocksteady Studios may have been concerned about Batman: Arkham Knight spoilers, they didn’t need to worry too much.
Even so, the studio saw fit to misdirect gamers in an effort to preserve their big twist, or at least one of them. They purposely misled gamers for one reason or another, and we would argue that doing so hurt that eventual reveal more than it would have otherwise. Had Rocksteady said nothing, then gamers likely would have predicted the twist before the game came out but still appreciated the DC Comics homages. But trying to skirt around the truth, we argue, diminished the impact that reveal.
The Secret Identity of the Arkham Knight
For those who haven’t picked up by now, we’re talking about the big Arkham Knight identity reveal in the game. Prior to release, Rocksteady talked up the Arkham Knight as an original creation for this latest Batman game, essentially suggesting that this was a new character and not one from DC Comics’ lore.
Still, gamers remained convinced that the Arkham Knight was a known Batman character. Some thought it was Joker resurrected, others thought it might be the Bruce Wayne lookalike Hush, but the loudest group pegged the character as former Robin, Jason Todd. The parallels between Arkham Knight and Todd were there – specifically the Red Hood connection – and it simply made sense to put the character as an adversary to Batman.
Of course, Rocksteady stuck to their claims that the Arkham Knight was a new creation while gamers continued to guess his/her identity. But then we finally played the game and even before the Arkham Knight’s identity was revealed it became clear we had been “lied” to. So many clues throughout the later portions of the game pointed to Jason Todd being the Arkham Knight, and eventually those suspicions were proven correct. The Arkham Knight is Jason Todd; Batman fans were right.
So, why all the mystery? Why pretend like the Arkham Knight was someone new? For us, Rocksteady’s desire to keep the Arkham Knight twist a secret only served to diminish its impact. Much like the Benedict Cumberbatch twist in Star Trek 2, this was a case where it was better to say nothing and leave audiences to their assumptions. Because trying to misdirect them only made the reveal land with a little less punch.
That being said, there are some clever twists and turns in the Batman: Arkham Knight story that were never spoiled, and those work really well. There’s one in particular that we actually are surprised Rocksteady was able to keep secret. Perhaps that’s why they spent so much time sending smoke screens regarding the Arkham Knight’s identity. They got gamers to focus on one thing, and surprised them with another.
How did you feel about the Arkham Knight reveal? Do you think Rocksteady Studios’ comments hurt the eventual moment?
Batman: Arkham Knight is out now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.