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EDITORIAL: Hollywood Comes a Callin'

Story added: 03 Aug 2006 14:01. Last updated: 25 Aug 2006 12:17.

Here's a little piece on how Hollywood has jumped on the mobile gaming bandwagon or is it the other way round?

Those of you who may know me (and lucky you I might add) will know that I'm a bit of a film buff. Or at least I consider myself one, contrary to the fact that I only tend to like typical bloke films. What does this have to do with mobiles, I hear you ask? Well, quite a bit actually. It seems that a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, films were just that. Films. You got some money together, shot your footage for a while, added the effects, edited the final cut and then sat back and waited for the moolah. Ok, that's a slightly oversimplified way of describing it, but it's safe to say that George Lucas changed all that. You see, the man was smart enough to take a massive cut in director's fee when he did Star Wars (together with Spielberg, I might add) in order to get a much bigger percentage of the merchandising rights. The studio execs were all laughing behind closed doors as no-one had ever thought there was any money in merchandising. Well, almost 20 years later and I reckon Lucas and Spielberg could probably buy a small island if they wanted to, maybe something like Australia.

Merchandising is huge for a film now. We have everything from the Happy Meal toys, the bags, posters, memorabilia, product placement (remember the phones from the Matrix) and, of course, the console game. The console game only really came to prominence in the last 10 years or so as the world realised how big the gaming market was and how relatively easy it was to base a game around a popular film and therefore save on the development and brainstorming costs. Ok, so I know I'm rambling a bit, but hopefully you've got a good idea where I'm going with this. What I wanted to talk about in this, our latest editorial, is the fact that it's almost a given today that a film will have a mobile phone game tie in. If you're gasping in wonder because you haven't realised this at all, well, it's true. If you're sighing with morbidity it's because you know full well that each film has a mobile game tie in, and quite frankly, most of them have been pants (to use the technological vernacular).

Before I get onto the games, can you all raise your hands if you knew that there were mobile game tie-ins for most movies that come out. Ok, by my count that's about 11 people. Console movie tie-ins get a fair amount of advertising. You see it on TV, in magazines, even at the end of some of the trailers. They are big business. So are mobile games, but have you ever seen an advert for any mobile game let alone a movie tie in? I mean, it's great that you can jump on the back of this big media bandwagon around the launch time of a film, but it's a real shame that companies don't take further advantage of it. It would be so easy to see a mention of a mobile game tacked onto the end of the trailer, or see a spread for a game in a magazine and actually see that the mobile format was one of the avenues you could check out the game together with the PC, PS2, Xbox logos. But that's a topic for another day and also harks back to our first editorial, so don't get me started on it again.

What about the games themselves then? I'm not talking about games which are tie-ins that are set in the universe of the film, like Star Wars games or Fast and the Furious as these are games which are good but don't often follow the plot of the film. I'm talking about games which do actually give the player an idea of what the film was about while still being a really great game. Now, this may be the problem. If you've been playing games for a while, you may have seen some of the turkeys that we've had to endure. Who can forget such greats as Robots or Shrek 2? For a while we thought that if this was the state of play then the industry was doomed. Thankfully for us though, most of the second rate drivel came from the US where execs have clearly thought out the brilliant strategy of "We've got a film coming out next week, we have to have a game out. I don't care how bad it is, just get something out there quickly before I fire your ass!!" Ok, so my years of going to the cinema may have stereotyped my view of what an executive in the US is like, but you get the picture. It was a good thing that these games weren't advertised that heavily as it would have put off consumers for life.

It wasn't all bad though, a few gems shone through to the surface. Get Rich or Die Tryin was a slickly updated version of Jamaican Discsta but it really managed to capture the feel of the film. War of the Worlds and King Kongwere also excellent and were prime examples of how good movie tie-ins should be done. It's not easy to make a movie tie-in as you have to spend a fair amount of time making it faithful to the film. Then you have to come up with a game format that's appealing, a game that plays well and you have to co-ordinate the release date to the same schedule as the film itself. No, it's not easy, but the titles I mention before show that it can be done. This definitely had a positive impact on the industry and we went from a vicious circle to a virtuous circle. Most tie-ins these days are of a decent standard at least like Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and some have been really good like Garfield 2. I look forward to movie tie-ins now, and it's a perfect time to get the message across that they are becoming a more increasingly important aspect of the industry. With the quality of games for movie tie-ins as they are, the timing is perfect for the developers to splash that extra bit of cash and let consumers know that while the film is coming out, for a small amount of money you can have a great gaming related experience. After all, most of the marketing has been done for them. The industry has come a long way since the dark days a few years ago of titles like The Italian Job and Mr and Mrs Smith>, and I think people need to know about it.

Just in case you're wondering what prompted this editorial, Miami Vice is coming out this week. I think the film will be great (as it's Michael Mann getting back to his original baby and doing what he does best) and then we've got the game to look forward to as well. It's been done by the good folks at Player X and shouldn't be confused with the Elkware version of the original series a few years back. We know the people at Player X so we're confident that it will be a great game. And of course we'll be one of the first to tell you all about it. In addition we will be running a competition with Player X to give away loads of cool prizes to coincide with the launch of the film, but there's no white jacket a la Don Johnson. Apart from the one that I own myself and go out in sometimes ;)

All I think we need now, is for a film to be based on a mobile game (and not the other way around) and ??????the circle will be complete??????. Suggestions anyone?

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Reporting by Anannya Sen (Chief Editor)

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