The Blockbuster of Video Games
The title seems a bit misleading since this isn’t an article about Blockbuster video games or even building a better spectacle. This relates more to elements or traits from the movie industry I would like to see more readily adapted to the gaming industry.
First, the notion of a “Tentpole.” In the movie industry, it is the sure to be (or hope to be) blockbuster movies that stakes out a weekend on its own to maximize profits. We already have firm release dates for The Amazing Spider-man, The Dark Knight Rises and even Iron Man 3 (which isn’t out until 2013). While some of these movies may be bumped up a day or two to open on a Wednesday, there’s a slim chance that any of them will miss their release by weeks or months. The same can hardly be said for video games. We have rough release dates for some major titles this year, but most gamers assume some of those will be delayed or moved into the new year.
The idea of a tentpole movie isn’t just to have a firm release date though, but its also for other studios to better plan their launches. You won’t see Spider-man and the new Star Trek movie come out on the same day, you won’t see The Dark Knight Rises and Harry Potter during the same quarter. The idea is you want to be box office king without hurting the competition too much. Video games don’t always keep that in mind and you end up with situations like Blur and Split/Second last year.
Second, publishing houses or branches. This is a tough one to explain so I guess I’ll use an example. When most people hear of Disney, they think kids and family movies, your Pixar flicks, Aladdin, Lion King, Prince of Persia, Pirates of the Caribbean. People don’t think Good Will Hunting or Dogma because while technically Disney films are released under another banner still owned by Disney. This way Disney can publish different types of films, while still keeping the company’s good name and image relatively friendly.
I don’t think many game companies have issues with a diverseÂ portfolio, but I was thinking something along the line of a banner to release smaller or more independent games. EA has something similar with EA Partners and Nintendo tried it during the GameCube-era with the Q-Fund, but something along the lines of a hands off publishing branch that helps out the little guys. The industry won’t grow without experimentation, but can’t always afford to invest in it.
Third and I guess finally, work on the notion of supporting your bigger projects with little projects or turning those profits into new ideas. Rough sentence, but take a look at Inception one of the highest grossing films of 2010. It was made because Warner Bros gave Christopher Nolan the creative room he needed to make it especially off of the success of Batman. Why ruin your golden goose (both Nolan and the Batman franchise), its not like missing a year will keep it out of the public’s eye, and you get a new franchise/idea/movie out of it. So instead of forcing a studio to make the 60th edition of Call of Duty, maybe allow them creative leeway in between the two and get a brand new IP out there.
There’s a lot more I think games can take away from movies, but on the business front, I think the gaming industry has a lot of maturing to do. As long as they aren’t run like MGM.