Among the big Hollywood studios, Lionsgate is making a name for itself with its far-reaching efforts in the interactive space. Heading up those efforts for the last year has been Peter Levin, who has been pursuing a number of different deals to find interesting and innovative ways to bring Lionsgate IP into gaming — and find some game properties worthy of going the other way, too.
Continuing the conversation with Peter Levin, president of Lionsgate Interactive, about the difficulties of creating good games based on IP, the potential of AR and VR, and why using VR in marketing may be holding back its commercialization. Read the first part of this conversation here.
What’s the biggest challenge in developing games that are going to last for years that are based on movies and television Is it getting the creative teams working together?
It’s like any hits-driven business — it’s picking your shots on goal. For us it has been an exercise at finding teams that are as good as they get, and coupling those teams to an IP they’re passionate about. But you’re going to stumble. I think it’s a marathon, not a sprint, is a good way to look at it. We’re not going to make a game based on everything we’re putting out on film and television, it just does not make sense. But at the end of the day, even if a television series goes away in its season one, but the concept, the underlying IP, the narrative, the story arc could map onto a great game. There’s no reason why you can’t still make that game. Because if you’re not considering it to be derivative, and just again, part of a licensing and merchandise exercise, but you’re considering it to be core to the adaptation of that IP it may and in some instances it absolutely will outlive the television product and the theatrical product.
One of the things we’ve talked about here today is AR and VR, and I know Lionsgate is making some bets in those areas. What can you tell us about your thinking on AR and VR?
Look, there’s a lot of cynicism, I’ve gotten some of that even here about AR and VR. But we’re very bullish on that environment within which to tell stories. We were announced as part of what HTC and Valve are doing together with Vive. We’re playing with a couple of our IPs with those guys, and we see it as a phenomenal opportunity to provide both experiences and the ability to yet again demonstrate our wares from our library, whether that’s theatrical or whether that’s television. In a 3D, HD 4K environment, to be able to consume themed content presented by Lionsgate and others, that’s a monetizable experience for us. As a user, as an audience, a lot of folks can’t afford $40,000 or $50,000 home entertainment systems, and all of a sudden you’re able to consume in both a very intimate and a very high-end manner.
We’re very bullish on it. We see it as almost the inversion of 3D, which was hype-hype-hype and then really under-delivered as a product. This is one where the product is so good, but it’s still so engineering-centric and I’m not confident necessarily on the roadmap to getting the product out, and how it is that they’re going to bring the qualitative experiences and couple that to the engineering. I think that’s where it’s falling a little short in some areas. But when you look at the numbers relative to Steam and Valve, the computational power is clearly there, you’ve got a contextual audience that are alpha adopters and they’re gamers big-time. You look at Gear VR and you have a subset of a pretty large audience that are going to be ready for primetime to a degree. It’s early days, but we’re bullish.
I think it has a lot to do with the cost of the hardware, and the nature of the experiences that are being delivered. It’s just hard to predict when that is going to crystallize into a market.
The other issue, and we deal with this as a studio, is there’s so much now being thrown at these experiences in terms of promotion and marketing. How are you going to differentiate a commercial experience from a promotional and marketing experience Whenever there’s new platforms, that’s where media tends to go. “Oh, let’s leverage the novelty of this new thing!” and we’ll use it as a promotional marketing vehicle. Well, while you’re doing that, it cannibalizes the commercial opportunity. At some point it’s the YouTube conundrum. Other players mature aroudn you, and then you have to either gravitate toward their model or build a better mousetrap.
Aside from AR and VR, is there something ahead in the next year or two that you think people in the games industry should take advantage of?
We see the ability within location-based entertainment experiences for gaming to become more and more of a thing. We just recently announced our first location-based entertainment initiative in the Middle East. The interesting thing about that dialog is going to be the gamification of a lot that’s going to happen in that environment and to couple people to that experience remotely through gamifiable experiences. I think for a company like ours, we’re kind of the little engine that could. We’re the newest bigger player, if you will. But we’re not a slave to a 15-acre lot behind our studio where we have to produce x amount of films per year and x amount of television per year. We’re somewhat mercenary in how we go out and distribute and finance, oftentimes, with our partnerships. We’re the agnostic player — we’re very good at partnering with people. We partner with all of the traditional big media players out there. We see just a tremendous amount of opportunity in every area.
How do you see games going into the movie or television space? Will this become more commonplace?
I think you will start to see more and more of that activity. I think there’s a little bit of a prejudice and it’s unwarranted or unjustified… and perhaps there have been some bad adaptations of games in years past. We’re pursuing several IPs that originate on the game side of the fence, and hopefully will mature into successful vehicles. One of the positives there that you cannot argue with are the engagement metrics. We just haven’t seen that before, and mobile/tablet have really provided that opportunity. We’re very bullish on it, as are the other studios, and we hope we and they continue to take those shots on goal.