Rock, Paper, Shotgun beat me to this story, but our friend Bobby Kotick (the man we all love here at Tap), has been delivering speeches at the (Bank of America) Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference in California.
Evidently not happy enough with the gazllions of pounds Activision already makes, he’s now touting the idea to sell pre-rendered cut-scenes to fans as feature length videogame cinematics…
“If we were to take that hour, or hour and a half, take it out of the game, and we have their credit card information and a direct relationship – and say to them “Would you like to have the StarCraft movie?”…and say we have this great hour and a half of linear video that we’d like to make available to you at a $30 or $20 price point, you’d have the biggest opening weekend of any film ever.”
I’ve no doubt that fans of Blizzard, and specifically the World of Warcraft licence would willingly pay to see a true pre-rendered feature film (a film is already in production). Blizzard’s cut-scenes are gorgeous after all. However, this specific audience targeting (based on a game licence), whether released at the cinema or more likely pay-to-view online, may not necessarily be as lucrative as he thinks.
The recent Resident Evil CGI film (Resident Evil: Degeneration) faired rather poorly financially, only achieving sales of around £300,000 in Japan (but seemingly earned enough to warrant a sequel). While Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was a box office flop, failing to even make a return. The cost of production and marketing for FF:TSW was $137 million dollars, with gross revenue of only $85 million dollars. A startling loss when factoring in the number of fans globally.
As with any film, the marketing machine must catch the casual audience whether it is on-line or not. Obtaining repeat viewings is paramount to a film’s success (see Titanic and Avatar) In the circumstance of FF:TSW and RE, it just didn’t happen. Hironobu Sakaguchi’s attempt at a commercial film was so dull that they alienated the very audience that would have guaranteed to make FF:TSW profitable. Even if it was only released online, public and critic reviews would have remained scathing.
The sheer cost involved in publicising a film in today’s market is staggering. Avatar’s marketing budget was estimated to be over $200 million dollars. More than most films cost to make. Yet without such a financial outlay, I’m unsure if it would have made the returns it did. The increased cost of tickets through 3D screenings certainly went some way in salvaging the woeful Alice in Wonderland, and only helped in catapulting Avatar further into the history books. Sadly, there is no suggestion based on Kotick’s comments that he even intends to or would prefer to release at the cinema and online simultaneously.
Bobby, instead, continues to throw around exaggerated claims to the suits, and should perhaps really look at the financial cost of developing a truly accomplished, critically acclaimed CGI feature film. I’d be surprised if even Blizzard could realistically create anything at the cost and quality of Pixar, even if it was to only be released to their gaming audience via online pay-per-view. Audiences today still expect exceptional quality from animated affairs, even more so if they intended to pay the figures Kotick was touting, fans or not.
Claims that a StarCraft feature film would have the biggest opening weekend of any film ever is simply unfounded, ill thought out and sensationalist if you fail to factor in a true cinema release.
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