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Nostalgia: Tiberium Wars Novel - Part 1

By FallenXE - 9th October 2014 - 12:04 PM

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Today we look at EA's past attempt to venture in the novelisation market for Command And Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars. Keep in mind that back in May 2007, EA explored the idea of packaging their franchises into novels, hoping that this would lead to strong consumer demand from both hardcore and casual fans and allow them to gain a foothold in a market, prior to which had been dominated only by Bungie's Halo novel series, Blizzard's Warcraft and Starcraft backstory novels, Relic's Warhammer 40k Saga and other game-to-novel derived works such as that of the BattleTech universe.

Though most casual sci-fi novel readers would be able to list the couple of Mass Effect novels penned by authors Drew Karpyshyn and William C. Dietz; Revelation, Ascension, Retribution and Deception, the success of those was clearly elusive from replication for the C&C franchise.

With a list of IPs that possessed universes greater or similar in depth to that of Command And Conquer to compete with, having a novel that would act as a test market seemed like a perfect idea to evaluate the viability of spinning off a novel arm for the franchise. What better way then to tie-in said novel with Tiberium Wars, the continuation of their long desired Tiberium Saga series. Surely there would be a significant demand for books and novels from one of EA's most cherished and supported franchises right? The answer could have been no further from the truth.

When it was first announced back in April 2007 that veteran sci-fi author Keith R.A. Decandrio, author of a long line of Star Trek novels and of countless other IPs, was going to helm the project, the fanbase warmed to the idea that novels could be a means for EA to elaborate further the Tiberian Universe and of that of the other storylines.

We're excited to expand the Command & Conquer franchise to a new form of media and offer a depth to the underlying fiction of the game series like never before," said Patrick O'Brien, VP of Business Affairs at EA.Source: EA via Escapist Magazine

From the above quote we are able to see the typical corporate stance from the EA brass, where they did not commit the tie-in novel as the first of a large prong to enter the market, but rather as a conservative attempt to test whether the demand for such novels would be favourable enough for them to continue expanding upon.

Take into account that as of 2014, EA has however launched its own comic book subsidiary, EA Comics, and seems to have found a niche in that field, with a total of 37 issues published thus far across a number of IPs, as stated in the link.

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This is definitely far more than the number of continuous IP novels they have published thus far, including but not limited to: Battlefield 3: The Russian, Battlefield 4: Countdown to War, the aforementioned Mass Effect backstory novels, Tiberium Wars, Crysis: Legion, Chris Ryan's Medal of Honor (2010), Warhammer Online - Age of Reckoning: Empire In Chaos, Dark Storm Gathering and Forged By Chaos. We can thus draw from the above that EA's novel publication policy falls into any of the following:
  1. One-off attempts
  2. Tie-in with a game
  3. Has consumer demand

More often than not, points i and ii overlap with point iii being the exception (Warhammer and Mass Effect). Mass Effect of course is one of EA's similarly more mainstream and popular IPs, thus deriving the demand for such novels whereas Warhammer with its prior list of novels under various publishers has a significant enough brand name and track record in the novels market that would attract consumers and fans to purchase them. Unfortunately for the sake of this article, sales data for individual books and publishers could not be obtained, as statistics for books in general are restricted to either best seller lists with no sales figure or categorised by retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Nobles in a wholesale manner.

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The question now was, would a Command And Conquer novel, and a Tiberian Universe one at that, be able to draw a similar pull on its fans? At the start it did seem optimistic however. With an IP that stretched as far back as 1995 and with in-game canon stating that the Brotherhood of Nod could have been established eons ago, there was much potential to be exploited by the novelisation of the franchise. With questions such as "How did the Scrin craft that carried the Tacitus end up on Earth?" and "What did Kane really do after the end of the First Tiberium War?", the possibilities seemed endless.

Fans soon found out through press releases that even though the novel was to be driven by the context of the game's plot, the Third Tiberium War, it would not be from the point-of-view of either side's Commanders but rather that of a Private Ricardo Vega (last name familiar?) of the UN GDIUP (never heard of it either right?) who quickly rises through the ranks as the war rages on.

The second part of this series will go in-depth about the plot and on the various trivias, continuity errors and artistic freedom employed within the said novel, which did not go down warmly with members of the Command and Conquer fanbase. We also examine whether the demand and feedback from Keith Decandrio's effort warranted EA's decision to pull the plug on the supposed-to-occur Kane's Wrath novel and of how this has had the effect of the dearth of further ventures in novelising further C&C games or to expand its backstory.

To be continued...

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