Mommy's Best Games, Inc. is an independent game developer founded in 2007. Our seventh game, currently in development, is Pig Eat Ball on which we started working in 2013. This is behind the scenes thoughts about game development and marketing.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Video Game Movies Are Actually Successful

While working on Grapple Buggy, any trip to the internet to check email or find music usually presents me with an advertisement for the new Prince of Persia movie. I had read it had a big budget and the trailers looked pretty good. This got me to wondering... will it flop all the more spectacularly? I remembered reading Bruckheimer defending game movies but wanted some more concrete numbers to find the truth. Turns out it's really different than the mainstream media had led me to believe!

Financially, there are more video game movie adaptations that have succeeded rather than failed. Seventeen, theatrically-released, game movies have at least broken even, while only nine game movies have financially flopped.

(Click for sales to budget comparisons)

Lara Croft, Hitman, Mortal Kombat, Pokemon, Silent Hill and Resident Evil movies have done very well, often grossing 3 to 4 times their budgets when you examine their Worldwide box office and DVD sales combined.

Financial failures like In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, Alone in the Dark, Double Dragon, and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li failed mainly due to them just being terrible movies as their Rotten Tomatoes rating is never above 5%.

The German director Uwe Boll has created the most unsuccessful game movies (three). Their failure as movies is probably related to his failure as a director rather than their nature of being based on video games, since only 4% of critics rated them favorably.

The most spectacular game movie failure is Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, costing even more than Prince of Persia (167 to 150m). Final Fantasy TSW is the highest critically rated game movie, yet with only 85m in sales many other game movies have surpassed it, and doubled or tripled their budgets in the process. The movie's story which did not tie into the game franchise, and didn't even really feel like a typical Final Fantasy mood is probably the cause of the low sales.

The closer the movie can fit to the game atmosphere, the more likely it will be a success at least with fans. Lara Croft traipses in tight-fitting clothing through exotic locales looking for treasure, Resident Evil has plenty of entertaining zombie fighting, Hitman features Agent 47 killing for hire, and Silent Hill is extremely strange and disturbing.

Statistically the odds are in favor of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time being financially successful. Jake Gyllenhaal is an Academy Award nominated actor and if the story fits reasonably with the game universe it should please game fans. The $150 million budget for Prince is very high for game movies, but actually less than the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie which went on to gross over $650m worldwide. All taken together Prince of Persia sales will probably surpass its budget and join of the majority of game movies which, contrary to popular belief, are actually profitable.


Booger Patrol said...

Your point is probably correct, but it should be noted that comparing a movie's box office + DVD sales to the cost doesn't really tell you if it was profitable. The studio doesn't receive 100% of the box office revenue, and then a percentage of what they do get may very well go to actors or other people attached to the movie who are contracted to receive it. Also, the production budget + marketing spend doesn't include things like the cost of distribution or printing. You also need to take into account merchandising and TV deals - some movies even wind up with TV contracts that cover the budget before they're even made, guaranteeing profitability and rendering box office moot.

Nathan Fouts said...

Sure, I'm certain there are costs I don't have access too, and also DVD sales numbers that aren't perfectly recent. But in broad strokes, we can see things are looking better for most game movies than usually understood.

For the most part the positive numbers are far enough ahead of any +/- (except DOOM, at 80 profit to 70 budget, it's so close to even based on lots of variables they could actually be in the hole and we'll probably never really know).
But generally most of those +money movies are probably still ahead.

Ondo said...

The Pokemon series did not originate as a toy line - it started with Pokemon Red and Green for the Game Boy.

Nathan Fouts said...

Ondo, thanks for the corrective information. I've updated the article.

Stick Games said...

Computer scientists have developed an algorithm that will make video game graphics look as smooth and as realistic as motion picture film in the next couple years. That was awesome!