You don’t have to look far to see the overlap between Hollywood and the video game industry. Game companies have bought movie effects shops and traditional movie studios have expanded into game development. Tomb Raider and Resident Evil started as games and had box office (and DVD) success. Star Wars and other series started in theaters and found added success in gaming. Famed directors from Spielberg and Peter Jackson to up and comers like Zack Snyder have signed game development deals. Game studios even have Hollywood agents. These days, whether it’s animated, family friendly, action driven or effects laden – chances are there is crossover or could be.
It’s not exactly a mouth opening surprise. All the synergy, marketing efficiency and business buzzwords aside there is much common ground. Both mediums share a foundation in their methods of visual story telling. Both share costly and long development processes. Both market (often) to similar audiences. Both need blockbusters to offset the lost causes of bombs. In a way, interactive video games are the choose your own adventure equivalent of Hollywood’s visual story telling tradition.
But just in case all the references and obvious points of confluence aren’t enough evidence of the increasing convergence between the two, add Jerry Bruckheimer to the list. The mega producer whose credits include films from Top Gun, to Beverly Hills Cop, and Black Hawk Down or Pirates of the Caribbean announced a partnership with MTV Games in December of 2007. And now after 18 months of silence, that gaming adventure is officially moving ahead.
Jerry Bruckheimer Games announced Tuesday that it hired two industry veterans to lead its organization and chaperon the company’s entry into the marketplace.
Jim Veevaert, who produced titles at Microsoft’s Bungie, Rare and Epic Studios, notably the Halo series, will serve as the President of Production. Jay Cohen, who was formerly Senior Vice President of Publishing at Ubisoft, will serve as Director of Development.
From the start, the new team’s goal is design cross platform/cross-media concepts via a “thin publishing” model. That translates to co-developing IP with third party talent that from the outset is segmented (or plotted) for different platforms: one part of a concept for gamers, another offshoot of the storyline aimed at movies or TV etc.
Speaking to Edge Online in an interview, jim Veevaert explained, “we feel that in the past it’s been a challenge for teams to recreate that filmic experience or that game experience in a film. Now we’re looking at how to look at it up front: what’s the right process, and where does it make sense for this IP to change mediums?”
Added, Jay Cohen, “It’s not about, after the fact, thinking, “Oh, that would have been a great idea, let’s make a phone call and call Hollywood and get a film made of this game!” It’s totally not that. When you come to market, imagine utilizing all the interactive platforms available today, and delivering story before, during, and after the release of other portions. We need to be at the intersection of creativity across the medium, and the strength of Bruckheimer’s production studios can actually deliver that.” (the full interview is here).
The vision the group has is long sighted. The group is anticipating a development window that could be three to five years wide. In a way, it sounds like an incubator. They’ll develop and oversee ideas, bring in creative talent, or farm work out to developers, as needed and then they’ll count on MTV Games to handle distribution.
There are no details yet about any titles in the works…. and given the gap between the first announcement and this one, or the long time horizon, it could be a while before there are any. Forming an appropriate sidebar, however, Jerry Bruckheimer is currently at work on a film called Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. The movie is based loosely on Ubisoft’s game series of the same title. Games go to the movies. Movies go to games. Prince of Persia, the film, is set for a 2010 release.
The convergence of Hollywood and gaming is recurring theme. With multi-year development cycles, and costs in the tens of millions per title, game developers need hits that can sell without the massive added expense of marketing new IP. They need brands with staying power. One way to do that is crossover – whether from Hollywood to the gamers, or from gamers to Hollywood. (though Game Developers would surely prefer the control and leverage of being the ones that originated the IP).
We’ve profiled this expanding overlap between film and games several times before on Metue. A new, more comprehensive survey is in the works but until then, more information on the subject from past articles can be found here, here or here.
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