One does not have to be an expert on business to understand that acquiring profit from the production of a film is not solely dependant on the ticket sales. There are many ways to cash in on a movie. Pixar’s Cars raked in about $461 million at the box office but achieved over $10 billion in revenue. Much of this additional revenue can be earned from toys, clothing, and, of course, video games.
As the easiest way to immerse someone in the film, movie video games have the potential to be the most enjoyable of the film’s additional revenue-building strategy. Who wouldn’t want to go on a rampage through Europe as you search for your daughter as Liam Neeson in a Taken video game? What makes a good movie video game, in addition to what makes a good non-movie video game (gameplay, graphics, music, etc.), is its ability to immerse players in the movie, whether by taking them through the plot and/or the movie’s universe.
Though it sounds easy, video games based on movies are not generally associated with quality (and especially not video games based on movies that are based on video games; Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game). Even worse is the fact that this image is well warranted. It is difficult to extemporaneously name good video games based on movies. However, they do exist.
One strong reason why most movie video games are not up to par is because of the adaptation involved. Video gaming experiences are lengthy, averaging 10-12 hours these days. Adapting a two-hour movie into a videogame of standard length is probably a tough endeavor for the developer. To make up the time, the game designers add filler material that is never good or fun, making the game worse. The real way to conquer this issue of length is to take aspects of the movie universe that go beyond the plot of the film and let the player experience them.
Two Star Wars Episode I video games illustrate both proposed solutions to this issue. The Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace video game added awful filler material like badly designed extra missions and puzzles to make it a full-length game (the wrong solution). Star Wars Episode I Racer took “pod racing,” arguably the coolest thing about film, and made it into a deep experience. Players were still experiencing the movie and every aspect of the game was fun, all while being a lengthy experience.
Another title that did this was 2004’s The Warriors, based on the 1979 film and developed by Rockstar Games. The game was excellent, specifically as a movie game, because most of the game leads up to the events of the movie, allowing the player to experience the rest of the film’s universe on a deeper level. There are levels devoted to the epic moments in the movie, but most of the game is quality action influenced by the film. It also has some voiceover work from the original cast, most notably James Remar, who reprises his role as the character, Ajax.
The main reason why video games based on movies are only of poor quality is because of their timeframe. The video game’s creation has to line up with the movie’s production so that they may release around the same time. Creating videogames is an art, taking time and effort. Simply put, rushing to finish the game so its release lines up with that of the movie inhibits the creative process and very often diminishes the quality of the game. Very few exceptions exist, however. Spider-man 2, which came out within two days of the movie, turned out to be a highly worthwhile title.
When looking at two video games based on movies that were absolutely amazing, Rare’s GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64 and Atari’s Ghostbusters: The Video Game, do the math between the game’s release and the film’s release. GoldenEye was released in 1997, two years after the film. Ghostbusters, the one released in 2009 (there were others), came out 25 years after its film counterpart’s release in 1984 (though not in development for all that time). Also, feel free to do the math on the aforementioned Warriors game as well.
GoldenEye’s designers had time to program and play test the game extensively to make sure it was outstanding. Rare ensured that the game’s moments, missions, and music were memorable, and that the multiplayer would be legendary (success on all accounts). Not limited by the time, the Ghostbusters designers could accomplish its own special interests like negotiating deals to have all the original actors do voice work, have the original writers write the game, get the rights to the theme song, etc.
Other notable movie games that came out significantly after their films include Scarface: The World is Yours (2006, based the 1983 film), The Godfather I and II (2006 and 2009, based on the 1972 and 1974 films, respectively), and Back to the Future (2010, based on the 1985 film). These games did the aforementioned things correctly as well, i.e. voice work, game length, etc.
Also, every once in a while, lucky gems surface like Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, which is a good videogame, based on a movie, that’s based on a book, which was heavily influenced by video games. See, we’ve come full circle.
Rather, we’ll come full circle when we accomplish the reverse: making a good movie based on a video game, which is a completely different topic altogether.