Ironically, as videogames matured into a legitimate entertainment medium of their own, we've seen a dynamic turn-around. Movies and TV are now licensing games at record rates. There was once a time when we'd run a digital Angelina Jolie around, not watch Jolie act out our favorite short-shorts clad, gun toting explorer on the big screen. Sadly, it seems like the quality relationship is pretty much the same. The movies based on good games have been, for the most part, terrible.
Cross-promotion is a reality we'll have to deal with. It helps sell product and makes a lot of people a lot of money. It would be nice to stand up and yell that it should end, but I'm going to be realistic about it. I want to find a way to make it work. To do this, let's look at movie-based games.
The biggest problem game developers face when hit with a movie license is a game generally takes longer to make than a movie. Games can take several years, and while movies can too, the timeframe is normally a bit shorter. They also suffer from changing visuals, re-writes and cast changes. It would be fine and good to give the game developers a script of the movie before filming starts and let them get going, but what happens when the director decides they need to change a major plot point or an actor drops from the project? Suddenly, the game is in a state of emergency. For cross-promotion to work, the game and film need to be similar enough that gamers go see the movie and movie-goers grab the game.
The solution is better cooperation. They need to share early scripts, get a heads-up on casting decisions and, most importantly, concept art from all stages. If they build the game from the same basic template as the sets are built, they may not be identical, but at least they'll be in the same stratosphere.
There have been a host of decent games tied into successful movies or television, but they're the exception. With the built in marketing power of the film, it would seem that these games have the highest chance of reaching out to the non-gamer. Yet, we as an industry continually deliver to them sub-par products. If companies can do what it takes to make good movie, film and television based games, a door is opened for the rest of us. As we all know, it only takes one game to get you hooked. These big licenses represent a huge opportunity to hook a whole new audience. It's time we capitalized on that.
Dana "Lepidus" Massey is the Lead Content Editor for MMORPG.com and former Co-Lead Game Designer for Wish.