Video games, the gold mine that Hollywood cannot exploit

A man searches for historical treasures in the most remote places on the planet, travels the world, fights against the villains of the day and has incredible adventures. This is not Indiana Jones or 007 hanging from the cargo of a plane in mid-flight: it is the saga ofUnchartedthe hit Playstation titles that garnered praise, awards, and sold millions of copies around the Earth.

Given so much recognition and popularity, the film starring Tom Holland (an actor who came from the success ofSpider-Man: No Way Home) and Mark Wahlberg, had a rather discreet stint in movie theaters. That a production whose estimated cost is around US$120 million (not counting advertising expenses) has generated less than US$400 million, for Hollywood, is not usually a cause for euphoric celebration. Added to the not so positive reviews,Unchartedgot a lukewarm reception.

Why couldn’t Sony transfer the success it does have on Playstation? How can something inspired by two such blockbuster sagas, such as Indiana Jones and James Bond, not fill all the rooms? The question not only worries the Japanese studio, because so far no one seems to have a clear answer.

It’s not that they video game don’t be a gold mine waiting to be mined.Grand Theft Auto VIt grossed $6 billion worldwide, far more than any of the highest-grossing movies in recent years. But the business model of games is different. The average price of a movie ticket in the United States is less than US$10. A medium or high-budget video game costs US$60 when it is released.

Not to mention that it requires a previous investment in a console (which, regardless of the model, is above US$ 300) or computer (building a team to play can be a more expensive initial investment than a home console) to be able to play. enjoy it.

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GTA V It is also a game from 2013 that continues to generate income because, like so many other titles, it has micro transactions to play online: that is, players are charged for dressing the characters, buying new gadgets or accessing unpublished material.

Movies and video games, opposing industries?

The cinemawith more modest prices and the possibility of including anyone who just wants to see a movie, it is still a more accessible medium. A spectator can spend only US$9 on the cost of a ticket. The investment of a gamer is hardly only US$60, because the business model of video games is designed to squeeze more out of each user’s pocket with a single title. But Hollywood’s is not a problem of the financial model, it is a problem ofadaptation.

It may be curious that, with video games, the mecca of cinema has not yet found any key: neither for artistic consecration nor for the one that usually matters more to producers and exhibitors, that of exploiting ticket sales with certain franchises in the film. large screen.

A gaming company

As a medium, the world of videogames is much younger than cinema (the cinematographer is an art that is barely over 100 years old). Even game reviewers themselves, when praising some titles (such asmetalgearsolid,another game that Hollywood has been trying to take to the cinema for a long time) highlight that it looks like a movie, alluding to the narrative sophistication that some titles present.

The praise can become a criticism for the most purists of the games, because they understand that the advances in that world have nothing to do with imitating the cinema. The games ofUnchartedthey take great classic movies as a reference, but they understand the medium they are in. They are not a movie nor do they try to be, even with their production values ​​andset pieces that refer to that bombastic Hollywood that spares no expense.

It could be conjectured that the first mistake of Hollywood is to believe that success is transferred automatically and that it does not matter so much how what is told is told. If the Indiana Jones movies are classics that, in addition, attracted the masses, it is because there was a filmmaker behind those titles who thought about where to put the camera for each scene: none other than Steven Spielberg.

Spielberg himself is no stranger to the problem of video game adaptations for the big screen (and also for the girl): first, the director ofjurassic-park took to the cinema a science fiction novel where the poorest sectors of a futuristic city are immersed in virtual worlds through virtual reality helmets. InReady Player One the digital universe serves as an excuse to show dozens of characters characteristic of video games, as if they were scripts for gamers, although it is not an adaptation of a particular game.

Spielberg was the first interested inHalo, the popular Microsoft video game, but neither he, nor Peter Jackson or Neil Blomkamp could direct a movie about Halo, although they tried. The flagship Xbox franchise now has a series (currently on the Paramount+ platform) that is just testing the ground to see how much interest it generates in the audience.

adaptation problems

Will, perhaps, the accomplice winks for the connoisseurs be the secret that allows them to achieve glory?Mortal Kombat (2021) had a different challenge thanUncharted.Mortal Kombat responds to the genre of fighting games, where the stories are told through the fights between the characters. None of the early gamesMortal Kombat eitherstreet-fighter they emphasized a cinematic story because they didn’t need to.

The stories were told through the characters, their clothing, musical leitmotifs, settings and combat techniques. It is enough just to see the design of any protagonist of a fighting game to understand how so much narration can be condensed with so few resources. It is not so much about narrating a story in conventional terms, but about letting the players complete the story of each character with their imagination.. Perhaps that’s why the adaptations of those two franchises didn’t have huge ticket sales. the third film of Mortal Kombat, with a budget of US$55 million, raised US$88 million. What can be read as a meager result is not so much if one takes into account that it suffered from a post-pandemic distribution model, which made the film reach theaters and streaming on the same day.

Within the universe of games there were two characters who represented like no other the war of the consoles to stay with the market: Mario, the protagonist ofSuper Mario Bros. and mascot of Nintendo, againstSonic, the blue hedgehog created by rival studio SEGA. That feud in the 1990s saw Mario as the eventual winner. The plumber even had a movie that, for many, is considered one of the worst adaptations that have ever existed in the history of cinema (and not just video games).

As the free against the turtle, Sonic was a character who lost the battle but not the war. Although SEGA is no longer the company that could once face Nintendo, the king of games, its most characteristic character starred in two films that managed to triple their budget in the final collection. Without being massive successes, they proved that there is a potential interest or space to conquer a family audience.

With a third movie on the horizon, Sonic’s case is an exception.Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon Citywith a budget of US$ 33 million (not counting marketing), raised only US$ 41 million.

The reading not only indicates that, with a lot of luck, the cost of production could barely be covered: also that it is not enough to put the title of a franchise loved by gamers on anything. The video games ofresident Evilthey raised, all together, something like US$ 9,000 million. Yet another piece of evidence indicating that the gamer market is far from being fully exploited by film and television.

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