The marriage of games and movies.

There’s an interesting article over at Wired today about how game makers and movie makers are working together more closely than ever. Games have been based on movie licenses for years, though rarely producing anything really worth playing in the process, and the trend for movies based on games has been growing as well. These days we’re seeing crossovers involving directors and writers as well.

What has changed in recent years is the agents themselves. Companies like Creative Artists Agency and International Creative Management have recruited veterans from the video game industry like former Microsoft exec Seamus Blackley and former Eidos President Keith Boesky. Those two agencies, as well as Endeavor, The Firm and the William Morris Agency, employ agents dedicated to various video-game companies and talent. And these agents grew up—and continue to be—gamers.

Nothing grabs Hollywood’s attention more than money. And with video-game sales topping Hollywood box office receipts for the second year in a row (games raked in $30 billion in global sales versus the movie industry’s $20.4 billion in 2002), Hollywood agencies have gone virtual.

While the U.S. market is the fastest-growing sector, it’s only a part of a worldwide audience that plays video games. Couple this global reach with an elusive 18-to-34-year-old, male population that spends more time playing games than watching TV, and you can see what’s grabbing the attention of major Hollywood players.

“There’s a whole new generation of Hollywood producers, writers, directors and actors that grew up playing games,” explained Boesky, the video game agent for International Creative Management. “These people understand games, they play games and they often want to become involved in games.”
…Despite the objection of some game designers, agencies are cutting deals for writers to get involved in video games. In the case of Activision’s World War II game, Call of Duty, Schiffer was brought in to punch up the game characters’ dialogue. Many young writers, who were weaned on non-linear entertainment, understand the medium.

Directors like Davis and John Woo, who has a game deal with Sega and a video-game company in Tiger Hill, also are getting into the act. And more actors, including Oscar winners like Gary Oldman and marquee names like Jennifer Garner and Arnold Schwarzenegger, are getting into games. The trend these days is to go beyond licensing a Hollywood property, instead casting a game with the likenesses and/or voices of professional actors.

Further bridging the gap between games and linear entertainment is the creation of original properties for games. Jet Li’s likeness, voice and motion-captured action are featured in Sony’s February release, Rise To Honor, a Hong Kong-style video game. Taking things even further, agents now are beginning to shop movie scripts with game-design documents together, so that a movie studio and a game publisher can nurture a potential franchise simultaneously across mediums.

Probably the best example of the inter-mingling of movies and games is Enter The Matrix which was not only based on the hit movies, but told a separate story that was interwoven with events in the second movie and utilized not only the stars from the movie, but many of the sets and had footage filmed specifically for it. It’s just a shame the game was so stunningly mediocre.

In fact, one of the long-standing issues with games based on movies is that, by and large, they’ve almost always been pretty crappy games that sell extraordinarily well because of the movie license. That doesn’t give the designers much incentive to try and improve future licensed games, especially if it’s timed to release alongside the movie it’s based on. Still, some recent movie tie-ins have been done pretty well such as LoTR: Return of the King, which has received some pretty positive reviews so maybe the tendency towards crappy movie games is on the way out.

Now if they can just make more comic book based games that don’t completely suck…

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