The Tricky Relationship Between Movie Franchises and Gaming

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Image via @Marksman

Image source: Marksman via Twitter

If the huge success of Marvel’s cinematic universe has led to one thing, it is the desire of big film studios to have a ‘franchise’. Now everyone wants a successful ‘tent-pole’ franchise of interlinked films, whether it is Warner Bros trying to create a DC Comics version of Marvel’s success, Fox looking to develop more Alien films or Universal pushing out yet another THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS film.

Of course the films are just one part of the pulling power of these franchises, with studios looking to take big-screen success into other areas including merchandise and gaming. The aim is simple – to leverage the brand recognition of a franchise to attract fans to new experiences.

However, taking a film into the gaming world is not always as easy as it sounds. It is possible, although not always in the genre of games that you might expect.

From the Big Screen to Slot Machines

One of the more surprising areas where many major film properties have popped up in recent years is the world of online slots. As remarkable as it sounds, online slot adaptations of film properties including TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY and JURASSIC PARK are very popular.

Fabulous Bingo is home to slots based on the friendly ghost Casper, classic film titles such as TREASURE ISLANDSINBAD, THE WIZARD OF OZ and even – remarkably – the ultimate weepie, TITANIC. Unsurprisingly, fans who have a go at the latter are warned to ensure they watch out for the icebergs.

So what is the thinking behind this? Well, it is all about using the brand recognition of the films to attract both old and new gamers. For example, TITANIC uses iconography, music and images of Kate and Leo which are synonymous with the film to create an experience to remind fans of it. It is all about reflecting the film.

Creating a Console Classic

A more obvious way to bring movie franchises to gamers is of course through developing console games. While online slots have a set format which means there are essentially finite options to make an authentic experience, the power of consoles means anything is possible. However, this doesn’t mean the switch from film to gaming is a smooth one.

GOLDENEYE is perhaps the most classic example of when a game based on a film got everything absolutely right. Released in 1997 for the Nintendo 64 by Rare, the first-person shooter is now regarded as an absolute classic. So much so that a remake of the game was even made available for PC last year.

THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK: ESCAPE FROM BUTCHER BAY, SPIDER-MAN 2 and ALADDIN are among others which were a success, but this list remains a fairly short one – which is remarkable when you consider some of the source material that games have been based on.

It can be argued that the problem with games based on films is that developers wrongly think that fans will buy anything as long it was tied in with their big screen favourites. The disasters are too numerous to count, although many have tried.

Heading in the Other Direction

Of course, you cannot talk about movies becoming games without a mention of gaming franchises which went the other way and became films.

HITMAN and TOMB RAIDER are notable examples of gaming series which made the leap but didn’t exactly set the world on fire, although a new Lara Croft film starring Alicia Vikander is another chance for the latter to make an impact. ASSASSIN’S CREED even recently flopped, and that had Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons starring in it.

RESIDENT EVIL 4: LA RESURRECCIÓN 3D by alfredituzz  :B, on Flickr
"RESIDENT EVIL 4: LA RESURRECCIÓN 3D" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by alfredituzz :B

The most lucrative video game adaptation in Hollywood is RESIDENT EVIL, with the latest film THE FINAL CHAPTER generating $94 million in China alone. But still, it is a franchise which has never really been a hit with critics.

One of the next gaming series which will try its luck is JUST CAUSE, with GAME OF THRONES and AQUAMAN star Jason Momoa signed up to star in the film.

A Tricky Transition

All in all, it is clear that the transition from film to gaming – and vice-versa – is perhaps not as easy as some would think. What is clear though, with the continuing focus of studios on creating blockbuster franchises, is that it probably won’t stop many people from trying.

There are multiple factors to getting it right, but a key one appears to be fairly simple – make sure the game not only reflects the film, but also works in its own right.