A $400 Million Bet On Video Games That No One Wants?

from the yikes dept

A few years ago, it was popular for video game companies to try to do license deals with movie studios, to create video games based on movies. The idea was that there would be some synergies between marketing budgets — but it turned out to be not such a good idea, and video game companies have put a lot less weight on movie licensing lately. The reasons aren’t that hard to figure out. The timeline for developing a movie and a video game are quite different, and if the two don’t come out at essentially the same time, you lose those synergies. Second, what makes a good movie and a good video game are entirely different concepts, and in trying to force a video game into the constraints of a movie plot, you generally make a bad video game. Apparently no one told that to a bunch of investors with way too much money to spare, as a brand new video game development firm is coming out of the gate with a stunning $400 million to focus on making video games from movie content. The company has already got license deals in place, which isn’t too surprising, but doesn’t answer the earlier questions that video game/movie deals have raised in the past. Also, given that the video game business is really a hit or miss proposition, betting $400 million on a single unknown company seems ridiculously risky.

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Comments on “A $400 Million Bet On Video Games That No One Wants?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: disagree

Golden Eye (James Bond) on Nintendo64 was a great game that revolutionized video games.

Golden Eye wasn’t revolutionary (at least to the rest of the gaming world – although it was a big deal for N64 fans). What made it special is that they took the gaming side and fun factor more seriously then they tried to make it follow the movie. They also had a great starting point, since Bond movies are basically a rough plot with random action.

dorpus says:

What about runaway successes?

In China yesterday, the government outlawed all video games and pirate copies of the Japanese horror movie “Death Note”. In the movie, teens pass around death threats to each other, which gets really acted upon. It struck a chord with Chinese kids, and there are dozens of pirated video games, etc. based on the movie, and some kids have really been killing each other.

Lets Wii Together says:

Also the Wii

The Wii Factor:

The Wii also has shaken the market. I play tennis regularly on Nintendo Wii. The key point about the Wii is, it isn’t about the graphics, or the license, or the name, it’s the interactivity.

If anything a license is a negative. I looked at Pirates of the Caribbean , realized it was on all platforms, and so the controls are likely to be some tacked on afterthought. I didn’t buy it as a result (Let me guess, you swing the control side to side to slash the sword, but otherwise it’s just another walk and kill format?)

The movie brand counted as a negative.

Since Wii is the big seller, soon to overtake the XBox360 despite a year lead, the movie license just isn’t worth as much now.

Then there’s the sequels factor.
A game may last for years.
A movie lasts a season.
Getting the game right and you can spread your profit over a decade, but getting a movie license right and you have 1 movie season and 1 TV rerun season’s benefit.

Grandfather Time says:


Just look at all the horrible licensed crap that has spawned in the video game market over the past 15 or so years….

There is a ratio of over 10:1, in terms of badly created licensed games to good licensed games, when it comes to video games created based on films AND television shows (Superman 64 anyone?)….muc

Action figures and books are a more appropriate outlet for licensed material. maybe the occasional bed spread or birthday party plate, but, video games are not where it is at for these people.

Seriously, who would even want to CREATE a game based on someone else’s ideas and plot lines, when an original intellectual property can be created for far less……

Random_User says:

Re: heh...

“Seriously, who would even want to CREATE a game based on someone else’s ideas and plot lines, when an original intellectual property can be created for far less……”

That’s exactly what comes to mind everytime I see video game based on a movie. I want to PLAY a great game. I want to WATCH an excellent movie. BUT, I don’t want to play a mediocre game because, it is based on a great movie.

Gavin (user link) says:

Nintendo is the worst offender!!!

The Wii and the DS are flooded with licensed games that are churned out and dumped on the market to be bought by casual gamers who don’t know any better. I don’t understand why people embrace the concept of the Wii being something that brings casual gamers into the market. It just means more lunkheaded hayseeds from backhole Kansas are going to put more crap like movie adaptations on the sales charts. Is that what gamers really want? More Shrek mini-games and Nicktoons kart games?

Paul says:

dot dot dot

So “turned out to be a bad idea” links to your baseless premature speculation from OVER 3 years ago, and “less weight on movie licensing lately” links to more of your 2 year old drivel which is based on a NY Times article whose entire claim is based on the fact that Matrix’s rights sold for $10 million while Constantine’s sold for under $1 million, and that games based on Spiderman 2 sold 2.5 million copies vs Catwoman games selling less than 150,000. !!NEWSFLASH!! Franchises that are more popular are also worth more and more profitable? NO WAY!

It is disappointing that you blindingly agree with such baseless bullshit just so you can squeeze out a headline. Do you have some sort of quota of articles you have to post? Do you get paid per pound of bullshit?

There are tons of games based on movies that were/are fun. Some of them dating back to NES.
For a list, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_video_games_based_on_licensed_properties

If a game is rushed then yes it probably will suck. The game doesn’t need to come out at the same time the movie comes out. If coinciding releases is what they are aiming for and they miss that window then they can always shoot for the dvd release. Hell, they can even shoot for launching it before a sequel.
Aside from all that, the game doesn’t need to follow the plot of the movie directly, more often than not just the basic concept of the movie is enough; take any Simpsons based game for example.

Games based on movies have been profitable in the past and will be profitable and worthwhile in the future.

Is it a $400 million bet? Of course, what investment ISN’T a bet? Pull some more sensationalist titles out of your ass please, and quit backlinking to your own old (in this case, VERY old and exceptionally outdated) baseless garbage as as a base for your current garbage; it only makes it that much more ridiculous.

So, Mike, aside from your always absurd backlinking to more of your own utter crap

Kevin says:

It could be worse...

At least they’re not trying to create movies based on video games, a la Super Mario Brothers, Wing Commander, Doom, etc. That would be really bad.

When I think about it, the only video games based on movies that have done particularly well have been games that were based on a very strong IP that is shared with a movie, but which has plots that do not necessarily coincide with a movie.

For example, Star Wars games have traditionally been great sellers, and quite of a few of them have been great games as well. But almost none of the Star Wars games were based directly on a movie plot, but instead just made use of the Star Wars “expanded universe” (X-Wing, Tie Fighter, Jedi Knight, Knights of the Old Republic, etc). Lord of the Rings games have is another example. LotR games based directly on each of the three movies haven’t tended to do so well, but other games within the Tolkien world (Battle for Middle Earth, Lord of the Rings Online, etc) have done very well.

I think that this is mainly because if you have a well done movie that creates an interesting and detailed world, gamers often times like the opportunity to participate in that world if they are presented with something new. But they don’t like rehashing the movie plot in the game, following a narrowly defined path to an end-point that they already know before they even get started. Where’s the fun in that?

ehrichweiss says:

Re: It could be worse...

They already have created movies based on video games. Where have you been? Doom, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Mario Brothers, Final Fantasy…I’m sure there are lots more that I haven’t listed. And yes, Mario Brothers was made into a kids movie back in the 80’s or early 90’s IIRC.

GoblinJuice says:

Vomit bag time! :-P

Whenever I hear the word “synergy”, I reach for a vomit bag.

I’m sure it’s possible for a game to be loosely based on a movie and actually be good, but I have yet to personally come across a living, breathing example.

The opposite is possible, also. A movie based on a game. Again, tho, I have yet to see a good example. (What in the Hell was that god awful Mario-based movie called?)

The problem, essentially, is that we’re dealing with two very, very different forms of entertainment. They don’t play well together.

I really do admire the folks that are willing to try to make it work, but… eh… *waves hand* …just a no-go, man.

thecaptain says:

Not true

Its not that no one WANTS a video game based on a movie. Personally, I’d LOVE a GOOD game based on some of my favorite movie franchises.

There’s the rub, I want a GOOD game, not a driven-by-a-committee-of-sales-vps cash grab piece of trash that they DO put out trying to get “synergy” with a movie release.

screw the marketing and the “synergy” and the marketing-speek and focus on making a GOOD or great game based on a movie franchise and the game will sell no matter what.

Enrico Suarve says:

Golden Rule

One of my golden rules when purchasing video games for sometime has been “never buy a game based on a movie”, and yeah it works in reverse as well as others are saying

I find its generally worked out – there is the odd exception (and yeah I’m with a that Golden Eye was one of them, although I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘revolutionary’ – fun maybe. Star Wars games remain the only movie games I will buy on sight, but I am willing to admit that’s probably more to do with appeasing the inner kid, who always wanted to fly X-Wings and fire blaster pistols ;0)

Aside from shitty rushed gameplay and graphics, one of my major gripes is that in most movie games you know exactly what’s coming, I hate that. I’d much rather play a game where you actually have to figure out stuff and have some level of surprise

David B says:

Golden Eye, Star Wars, LOTR are all great games based on great movies, showing the concept can work. What’s required however is that the studio cares as much about the game as the movie, which is rarely the case. Usually game creators pay for the game rights to a movie as a way to sell crap fast to the public, which is why we have games like Superman.

Movie studios and game producers need to understand that a good game can enhance a good movie, but a bad game does nothing (or may even take away) from the movie. I for one usually stay away from movie based games until they are rated high by others. This might not be the case if movie producers demanded quality games.

Anonymous Coward says:

I look around at the local Walmart and Target, and it seems like at least half of the games in stock are based on movies. This is what I call being cheap and lazy. I am sick and tired of looking at movie lists in the video game department. I want to see new, unique, original games, not attempts at profiting from a cheap ripoff of a good movie.

Granted, I doubt all the movie-based games are poor quality, but still, there’s something to be said for originality. I have a lot of respect for companies that can innovate and come up with fun, exciting new products without having to sue or ripoff somebody else in order to profit.

Guy says:

$400 MM

Uh guys, I know most of you live in the world of your own TV and console, but $400 million isn’t actually all that much money. In a world where acquisitions are approaching the $100 billion barrier, it’s not that much of a bet for two sizeable and very smart private equity funds to take on–especially when they have other investors backing the deal. In addition, the company already has some hard assets (the licenses). C’mon, a “ridiculously risky bet?” Live in the real world and you’ll understand that if it was too risky, it wouldn’t have been funded.

Greg (user link) says:

I think the problem is less with using movie IP for video games, and more the way developers tend to go about it.

I’m assuming it’s due in part to the tight controls studios want on their characters and such, but it seems like most movie video games end up being rehashes of the movie plot, and the lack of money spent on the game itself become readily apparent when you don’t have the “shiny and new” factor of the story/setting to distract you.

The bottom line is that movie studios see games as just another tie-in, like action figures or McDonalds toys, and they don’t know anything about games. The cheap-and-rushed approach almost never works. Who knows, maybe they’ll do it right this time?

James says:

You'd think..

..if the average person could figure this out (from above comments) that a person (or persons) working on a movie-based game, or game-based movie, could too.

But.. then they’d wind up admitting they just throw the crap out there hoping some of the sh*t will stick instead of trying to make a quality product (with previously noted exceptions).

Matthew says:

The real suck

The worst part of being a game reviewer is having to test and write up critiques of these games before they’re launched. You may think that’s great and awesome that we get to see it before anyone else, but mostly just ruins the movies for us.

I understand the “strike while the iron is hot” mentality of getting the game and movie out at the same time, but sometimes apples and oranges should remain apples and oranges.

Sean says:

Animated movies/games

I agree for the most part about the “synergy” concept (I personally thought the X-men 3 game blew chunks). But as has been previously stated, some franchises (eg Star Wars, James Bond, etc.) have been good games.

However, IMHO the best Game/Movie synergies have been of the animated variety (Chicken Little, Flushed Away, etc.) Obviously these are games meant for youngsters, but in helping the kids get through the “tough” parts, I’ve found myself enjoying them immensely and sneaking off to play them when everyone goes to bed.

Maybe I’m just not that into gaming as I used to be when I was younger. 🙂

Semicharm says:

Poisoned synergies

To the people who blame the studio for crappy, rehashed movie-games, I say follow the money. Most of this probably comes from marketing firms that are hired by the studio or the publisher to blanket the market with movie tie-ins. They tend to be cheap because these firms have 0 vested interest in the actual IP.

If the studio actually cared enough about their IP to work with a serious developer, then they might stand a chance. But the key is they have to work together and be serious about what they are doing. The studio has resources that can be useful for the developer and vise-versa. An example that comes to mind of how even a game backed by the studio can fail without proper coordination, Alias. Even with the backing and resources of the studio, Activision still made a crappy game because the studio let them work behind closed doors.

If these guy are serious, then learn from the past mistakes of others. There’s certainly no lack of source material there.

brian dow says:

recipe: avoid the problems mentioned in this article

What will be key for this company to succeed is for it to do exactly as the beginning of the article states, and to rigidly avoid paths toward the mistakes listed. For example, one way to do this might be to put it into the contract somewhere that the movie can’t be released till the video game is done, and vice versa. Somehow I don’t think this will happen, because movie producers are a lot more influential than video game testing and dev firms that make their games.

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