FEATURE ARTICLE: Just Another Phase of Marketing? Movie-Game Adaptations
In the age of television, online entertainment, computer games and torrent downloads, movie studios have to compete even harder for a piece of the market share. With production costs and actors wages increasing, and a high demand for epic digital effects, a simple movie release along with a Happy Meal promotion is no enough to get, using the industry term 'butts on seats'. Studios have to exploit virtually every marketing avenue available, and the iPhone is now a part of the equation.
The initial cinematic release of a film usually equates to less than half of a blockbusters success, the opening weekend determines the rate of return on investment, and in previous decades, huge profits were amounted form 6 - 8 week screenings. These days, there are many new ways to top of the profit margins, but as movies move into game industries, would the demand on quality begin to push the movie-games into their own marketplace, where as much time is needed in developing the game as there is spend on making the film.
Exploitation (not using the work in a negative sense) has been around since it was through up by the marketing departments of the old studio system, Disney merchandise could be found going back to the 1920's, and hugely profitable franchises saw popularity since the 1970 with sagas like Planet of the Apes and Star Wars being the first to use this to their full advantage. With movie studios at the cutting edge of technology, they were certainly eager to get a piece of the new computer games market which gained popularity in the 1980's. This has followed through to the late 2000's and now smart phones have found their place amongst hardcore and causal gamers alike, a game release for any upcoming blockbuster is more an expectation than an option.
While browsing the App Store, I came by many such releases, offcourse there are the big players; Avatar, Harry Potter Spells, Terminator Salvation, Iron Man Aerial Assault, iZombieland and even Twilight Trivia. With some games playing off the films story line, often acting as a prologue (like Avatar) or playing through part of the story, or for those films that could not even justify making a game, releasing trivia apps (probably for the better.) Some studios are even digging into their back catalogue of titles; Paramount Pictures have released several small games based on their past successes; Pet Sematary, Clueless (..why?), Mean Girls (...?), and Iron Man Aerial Assault, though the sequel to the first film is coming out in 2010, which gives it a good head start.
In fact, giving game developers a head start on movie-games has become quite common, while filming Lord of the Rings, Peter Jacksons group knew the importance of respecting gamers expectations and began development on the games before filming had commenced on the second part of the trilogy, giving plenty of time for a simultaneous release. There are offcourse some studios and distributors who see the games market, and iPhone market as just a cash cow, I have no doubt that Family Guy Uncensored is nothing more than this, games that borderline Fanboy Fiction, or there are those who take the popularity of their product and squeeze every last drop out of it (not mentioning Disney Fairies Fly or Shrek Racing), but I guess that's what people want to see, a well developed product that is available in as many platforms as possible, otherwise producers will miss out on all that money.
I'm going to be looking towards the future of movie-game adaptations with optimism, games are after all, an industry with a dedicated consumer base, who are willing to purchase any good product, because if something doesn't live up to expectation... there is always Jailbreaking.