Video game movies have a terrible, and well-deserved, reputation. So why does Hollywood keep making them? Because some of them make money.
On Friday, Universal (GE) signed a deal with Take-Two (TTWO) to make a movie based on Bioshock, which came out in August and has sold more than 2 million copies. The movie will be directed by Gore Verbinski, of Pirates of the Caribbean fame. If he can take a theme park ride and make it box office gold, maybe he can do the same with a video game.
It’s not a terrible idea, which is why Hollywood has been doing it for quite a while. No one’s arguing that any of the video game movies were robbed of their rightful Oscars for Best Pictures. But we’re talking about show business here, and there’s reasonably solid business logic underlying these projects: By basing a movie on a game, Hollywood has a product that’s:
1) Pre-marketed: Everyone who’s bought or played the game will be a much easier sell.
2) Pre-marketed to the right audience: The video game audience is exactly the same audience that Hollywood is most intent on luring to theatres — in part because they’ve been leaving the theatres to play video games.
That said, just slapping a video game title on a crappy movie doesn’t ensure success: It just means you have a crappy movie. Then again, we haven’t seen any good movies with Freddie Prinze Jr. So maybe Wing Commander could have worked with a different cast
Video game movies released since 1998 (international box office gross from boxofficemojo.com):
1. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001): $274,703,340
2. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003): $156,505,388
3. Resident Evil: Extinction (2007): $147,717,833
4. Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004): $129,394,835
5. Resident Evil (2002): $102,441,078
6. Hitman (2008): $99,611,509
7. Silent Hill (2006): $97,607,453
8. Final Fantasy (2001): $85,131,830
9. Doom (2005): $55,987,321
10. House of The Dead (2003): $13,818,181
11. In The Name of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2008): $11,820,292
12. Wing Commander (1999): $11,578,059
13. Alone In The Dark (2005): $8,191,971
14. DOA: Dead or Alive (2002): $7,500,497
15. BloodRayne (2005): $3,650,275