Movies and video games have had close ties for a long time, despite how audiences often criticize how some properties have a hard time crossing over into different media, such as with the Warcraft movie that released last month. However, there will always be an allure associated with popular franchises crossing into different media. Deep down, video game fans would love to see quality movies made from beloved franchises, as demonstrated by The Angry Birds Movie. At the same time, moviegoers want a chance to delve deeper into the worlds they enjoy on the big screen.
But it looks like both movie studios and game developers have learned from the past and are on the right path. Instead of developing games that are entirely based on movies, as has been done so often in the past, studios are increasingly moving toward creating distinct experiences that complement each other instead of repeating them, which grows the franchise as a whole.
One major example of this direction is how Sony surprised Spider-Man fans last month by announcing that a new exclusive PlayStation 4 game featuring the web-slinging wall-crawler would be developed by Ratchet & Clank creator Insomniac Games instead of relying on its longtime game development partner Activision. Moreover, even though the game will feature an original story, it’s almost bound to promote the movie Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is expected to release next year.
In a recent interview, Marvel Games head Jay Ong spoke about how Spider-Man was only the beginning of a new brand strategy, stating “I think it’s part of our strategy to have a relatively diversified portfolio that meets different kinds of audience and gamers’ tastes.”
The Actions Of Angry Birds
Rovio has practically turned using a video game movie promotions into an art form with the incredible release of the Angry Birds Action! mobile game. Action turns out to be both an Angry Birds-themed pinball game and augmented reality experience. Audiences were encouraged to go to theaters and watch the movies to catch a special audio watermark during the credits to unlock extra content. That’s in addition to how Rovio partnered with a long list of companies, which include McDonald’s, Walmart and Toy R’ Us, to support BirdCodes—product codes that can be scanned by the mobile game to unlock special power-ups and mini-games. That way, the Angry Birds brand continues to be popular even after the movie leaves theaters.
It seems other studios had similar ideas when it came to movie and game crossovers. Zynga’s new match-3 mobile game, Ice Age: Arctic Blast was developed in partnership with 20th Century Fox and Regal Entertainment to promote the movie Ice Age: Collision Course with two exclusive movie clips. Furthermore, players will be able to purchase tickets to see the film at Regal Cinemas theaters. Similarly, Regal Theaters partnered with Storm8 for a special promotion where Dream City: Metropolis players can not only build an authentic Regal Cinema in their virtual town, but gain bonuses when watching branded movie content such as trailers.
The Next Level Of Experience
Tying a mobile game experience with upcoming movies is an ingenious move, but it’s not the only one 20th Century Fox is experimenting with. We’re slowly entering into an era where video games may act as a bridge between movie releases. Kabam, the studio behind super powered mobile games such as Marvel Contest of Champions recently announced that it is working on an epic-sized multiplayer mobile game based on James Cameron’s Avatar movie universe. With four sequels in the works, the mobile game will act as a bridge to maintain audience interest between films, and it may continue to be active after the final movie comes out in 2023.
Starbreeze is also at work on John Wick: The Impossible Task, which releases later this year for VR platforms. The game will immerse players in the world of assassins, and while bridging events between the original 2014 movie and the sequel that’s expected to hit theaters next year. This is quite a step up from how different movie studios used mobile VR apps last year to bring viewers a 360-degree view of the fictional movie worlds, and is an evolution of how the Paranormal Activity VR demo scared horror fans at select AMC Theaters last fall and at both GDC and SXSW in March. It will be exciting to see what promotions are in store for the Assassin’s Creed movie, which is also expected to have a VR experience.
Of course, the biggest step toward creating a cross-media promotion comes from the Ghostbusters: Dimension hyper-reality experience, developed by The Void in partnership with Sony Pictures and Madame Tussauds, where attendees have a chance to become Ghostbusters and become excited for the new movie. When asked about what the location-based hyper-reality experience meant for future movie promotions, Jake Zim, senior vice president of virtual reality for Sony Pictures, told [a]listdaily “yes, we are thinking about what the VR thing is from the inception of any production moment or even the concept. A filmmaker comes to us and pitches an idea, and we’re thinking at the beginning of the process about the VR component of it. But generally speaking, we’re trying to build on and extend the world, instead of overlap or layer into the world too much.”
Taking To The Small Screen
Last fall, when Activision Blizzard Studios was announced, the studio’s co-president Nick Van Dyk stated that the goal was to bring popular franchises to new mediums. Activision Blizzard has fan bases that rival or surpass many movie IPs, and Van Dyk underscored this by stating, “Our library spans more than 30 years of global entertainment culture and, in the last 12 months alone, fans of Activision Blizzard properties have played and watched our games online for more than 13 billion hours. This gives us a huge, passionate and deeply engaged audience that is hungry for more great content built from the universes they already know and love—and which are extremely broad in their appeal.”
Skylanders Academy, a TV show based on the popular toys-to-life franchise, is the first project to come from Activision Blizzard Studios, and it will be broadcast on Netflix. The games and the show will work to promote each other. Meanwhile, a Call of Duty movie is in the works and is expected to release in 2018 or 2019.
Electronic Arts also recently announced that it was following a similar path by adapting the incredibly popular Battlefield franchise into a television show. Although there aren’t many details about the show, it’s likely to have a unique plot inspired by the game series instead of copying it.
When all taken together, it’s clear that having a variety of experiences available to audiences helps to promote the brand. Instead of trying to copy each other, the video game, movie and television mediums have learned to focus on what they’re best at so that audiences are happy now matter how they experience a franchise. The best partnerships bring fans together so that they can enjoy IPs across all different media with experience that extend past the movie or television screen.