- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2006

LOS ANGELES

America’s entertainment industry will be increasingly convergent, with original story lines packaged and released concurrently across several media, video-game and film developers said Tuesday.

“This sort of synergy is a vast untapped resource waiting to explode,” said film director Paul W.S. Anderson — whose titles include “Mortal Kombat,” and the “Resident Evil” series — at the first annual Hollywood and Games Summit.

“We’ll begin to see intellectual property designed to be released as video games, feature films and television spinoffs all at the same time,” said Mr. Anderson, who is shooting the upcoming film “Dead or Alive,” based on a popular video game.

According to Keith Boesky, founder of the video-game department at International Creative Management, more Americans regularly play video games than go to the movies — and the average age of gamers has climbed to 33.

Hollywood is looking for more lucrative ways to exploit this trend in entertainment consumption with a saturation approach to marketing. However, the film industry also wants to ensure that the expansion of gaming does not come at the expense of box-office receipts.

Industry insiders such as Seamus Blackley, who handles gaming and film crossover at Creative Artists Agency, believes both Hollywood and the gaming industry have passed the awkward honeymoon phase and are entering a familiar partnership.

“Someday, even the president of the United States will be a gamer,” Mr. Blackley said. “Then our industry will really be different.”

Hollywood relies on “pre-awareness,” familiarity that facilitates marketing, to drive box-office returns. Popular games often make popular films.

“It helps to cut through the clutter,” Paramount Pictures story analyst Jason Hollander told Agence France-Presse. “When people have a free Friday night and are looking around for something to do, pre-awareness helps push them in our direction.”

However, not all successful video games have fared as well on the big screen. Earlier adaptations did not reap the windfalls of “Tomb Raider” and “Mortal Kombat.” The film version of Super Mario Brothers (1993), considered a classic Nintendo game, was a commercial flop.

Packaging intellectual property for release also would benefit the gaming industry, which routinely spends upwards of $20 million to develop a game. If a game flops, there is no second chance like the video release of films. Multimedia release of intellectual property offers the gaming industry a safety net.

“These days game builders work on their script at the same time as the screenwriters are developing their script,” said Kevin Feige, president of production at Marvel Studios.

With 5,000 characters in the Marvel stable, the company is in a unique position to capitalize on the convergence between gaming and filmmaking.

Hollywood is beginning to understand the world of gaming, Mr. Anderson said. “This is the first generation of filmmakers who grew up with video games as a major influence in their lives.”

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