Hollywood Connection: Bruckheimer Games Moves Ahead

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. 

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Pearl Jam to Get Video Game

pearl jam rock band. metueLast week, Activision Blizzard confirmed several rumors about its planned slate of music-based video games including verification that the next single-band installation of Guitar Hero would revolve around the 80’s superstar rockers, Van Halen. (The band had more Billboard Hot 100 hits than any other rock band in the decade).  Not to be outdone, today rival MTV Games, maker of Rock Band, countered back with news that they’re working on a game built around a band that helped to define the 90’s music scene: Pearl Jam.

Details about the game are scarce.  At this point its even a guess whether the Pearl Jam title will be a full fledged game, or simply a “track pack expansion” for the Rock Band series. All that’s been revealed is the game is scheduled for sometime in 2010.   That, and that fans will have some input on the game’s development. Through a promotion with Rhapsody, the band is asking fans to vote on songs for inclusion at their website.  More details on Rock Band: Pearl Jam are expected to come out at E3, the gaming industry’s big trade show, next month.

Whatever the game turns out to be, one thing to watch: how the marketplace responds to the new titles.  Click to Read More

Activision Details Upcoming Guitar Hero Editions

Guitar Hero Van Halen Metue RenderGuitar Hero has been a goldmine for Activision Blizzard.  The popular music game franchise has generated more than $2b in sales and pushed out 34 million song downloads.   Looking to build on the brand’s strength while expanding the franchise’s demographic reach, the company has confirmed a number of details about future installments.

First, three titles will debut this fall.  Guitar Hero 5 will expand on the prior offerings with a classic rock base and music choices aimed at the game’s core audience. 

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It’s a billion. Apple Application Store Achieves Milestone

app billion apple tropy metueThe iPhone is a great device, there’s no denying its innovations but the phone’s greatest competitive advantage may well be the platform not the product.  A few minutes ago,  Apple’s supporting “App Store” passed a billion downloads. 

A billion downloads in about nine months?  That translates to an estimated 37 million customers (representing Apple’s disclosure for combined iPhone and iPod Touch unit sales), downloading 27 programs a piece – and with no sign of slowing down. 

It took Apple six months to hit 500m in January.  It took only three months, to double up.

Apple will no doubt promote the achievement, but even without any hype – it’s staggering.  It’s hard to think of any product or service (technology or otherwise) that’s had that kind of consumer uptake in comparable scale and speed.

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NPD March Results: Gaming Sales Drop Off

Year over year comparisons in the entertainment industry aren’t always the best indicators of performance.  From one year to the next, there can be great variation in the slate of titles, their quality, or their release dates.  A hit one year can make an otherwise good performance the next seem weak.  A schedule change on a key release can make or break a quarter.  Even so, new March sales results released by NPD seem to show the U.S. video game industry’s growth hit a pothole.

Overall for the month of March, he industry was down 17% to total sales of $1.43B.  

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Activision Sued Over DJ Hero (UPDATED)

DJ hero lawsuitActivision Blizzard walked out of court victorious in early March after quashing an ill founded patent lawsuit that challenged its flagship Guitar Hero franchise. Now, barely a month later, the Santa Monica based game publisher is walking back in again to face yet another suit regarding its lucrative series.  This time it’s DJ Hero, a hotly anticipated, in-development Guitar Hero spin off, in the line of fire.

The suit, filed April 14th by Scratch DJ LLC (“S.DJ”), a joint venture owned by Genius Products and DJ equipment maker Numark, alleges Activision illegally interfered with the development of S.DJ’s competing game, and did it intentionally, violating several tort laws along the way,  in order to make sure DJ Hero has the advantage of being the first to market. 

S.DJ’s game, Scratch: The Ultimate DJ, has been in development since at least early 2008.  Artists ranging from the Gorillaz to Run DMC to  the Black Eyed Peas have been linked to it and the buzz factor is pretty high.   

The game was tentatively expected to be released for the Xbox 360 and PS3 in September.

That date may now be in doubt, however, and according to S.DJ, that’s because of Activision’s actions. 

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Exodus from Midway?

midway choicesA talented staff can be a company’s greatest asset but in tough times it can also be a significant liability.  It comes down to motivation and retention.  Can employees be kept happy and on the job or will they flee to a more stable, more certain work environment if able?

Midway Games, which is struggling to survive a bankruptcy restructuring, is facing these very issues and the prognosis is not great, so far.

The company’s looking at asset sales and other tough choices in order to find a way to service nearly $240m in debt.  

Employees working today could be out of a job in two, three or six months.  (They could also find themselves part of a stronger, recapitalized company but it’s a gamble).  Each has to decide whether to look for life raft, or try and keep the ship afloat.

New rumors suggest door number one may be becoming the more popular choice.  Several reports circulating over the weekend said a large chunk of the team behind the company’s flagship Mortal Kombat series is in discussions to leave en masse and start anew under another publisher’s umbrella.

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