The Lion King video game has a notoriously difficult level. Known simply as ‘the monkey level’, some consider it one of the hardest levels in gaming. But did you know there’s a story behind its legendary difficulty?
In the 90’s, Blockbusters started to rent out video games in addition to films. However, unlike film studios, who got paid every time their films were rented, video game developers didn’t get a cut of the profits. So, a lot of the video game industry hated the rental industry and wanted to make sure their games could not be beaten in the rental period.
Disney, in particular, had studies and metrics. They determined that most players would not buy a game if they could beat some large percentage of it in a rental period. Disney told the developer of the Lion King, Westwood studios, to put some giant difficulty spike early in the game to intentionally halt player’s progress. The game was nearly complete and the final deadline was fast approaching. The monkey puzzle was the only thing they could quickly implement on such short notice.
Here’s a developer’s commentary on how it went down: