Speaking at their Hollywood & Game Summit keynote 'Driving Mythology Forward' Legendary Pictures chairman Thomas Tull and Brash Entertainment CEO Mitch Davis talked film and game crossovers, and why using a movie brand without a compelling reason is a "very dangerous thing."
[Tull, during the course of the keynote, detailed Legendary's involvement with its
World of Warcraft film, reported at greater length here
Movies And Games - A Dangerous Combination?
Tull, long-time film industry veteran and most recently executive producer on 300, began by saying of the two industries, “I think in general that we’re at an amazing crossroads, from a storytelling standpoint, from a gameplay standpoint, and I think it’s time for these media to start moving together.”
“When I was growing up," said Tull, "video games were in an arcade that you went to, plus we bought an Atari. The first movie game I played was E.T.
, where the little guy’s neck went up and down. Pretty exciting at the time, but we’ve moved on now... I think it’s a very exciting time that we’re in right now."
Tull, who helped found Brash Entertainment, said of the motivations behind founding the company: “Contrary to what I’ve seen in the press, it's not to fix anything that’s broken. We looked at the growth in the category, and the platforms and what we think we can do, and one of the low-hanging fruit is movie games. It allows you to get a start in the category and kind of get your feet wet.”
But, he was quick to add, “I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if we wound up doing some exciting original IP in the future.”
On movie games' checkered history, Tull said, “When you talk about why video games based on movie have had a deservedly bad rap, there are a number of issues. There are some video games based on movies that I don’t think should have been made. If there’s not a story or compelling reason, it’s very dangerous to take a brand and just slap it on a box and hope it’ll sell – even though often consumers will still buy it. That’s a very dangerous thing.”
“Previously," he continued, "video games have been treated by studios like lunchboxes or other merchandise, rather than having the VFX guys come and help with the games in the creative process. I think that’s day’s about to come.”
On the process of tying the two media together, Tull said, “I think if you wait until a movie it greenlit, you only have 14 months until it can come out, and you miss out on gameplay opportunities... I think that winds up being a mistake.”
"The video game business had become so big and so prevalent that (directors) want to be involved in these games," he continued. "Getting involved at an earlier stage is better – even if it’s not greenlit yet, you can start prototyping if you’re pretty sure it’ll come out, and get a jump start on these things.”
“At the end of the day," Tull concluded, "we’re in the storytelling business. I think we’re getting to a point, with the level of sophistication that gamers have, that that storytelling can be a part of the experience.”
Davis Gets Brash
Brash CEO Mitch Davis then continued, first commenting on his games industry experience: “This is actually my second foray into the game industry -- I founded a company called Massive Inc back in 2002. It was a very simple idea I had when I bought every game I could get my hands on."
"I got the idea when I was playing [Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
] – there are fake billboards all over the game – and I thought hey, we could put real advertising in there, and switch it out in real time. We took that idea and we built it up, and had a really good run.”
Davis called out Riddick as an example of a franchise that made a better game than a movie: "It was a universe that made sense for games. In the case of Riddick, it’s a hell of a lot more fun to be the character yourself, than see the character dispassionately on the screen... They had time to make a great game, and that’s why it got a 9.2 average score. It makes me confident that there can be good movie-based games."
Detailing Brash's future plans, Davis said a game based on the Saw movie franchise will be coming out in the next 8-10 months. The company will be working with Fox, Lions Gate Films, Warner Bros, Universal and Vanguard Animation.
“We have over 40 licenses that Brash will be making games out of in the next 5 years," said Davis. "It’s tricky, but if you put enough thought into selecting the dev team and creatives on the game as you do into the director and talent in the movie, you’ll have a great game.”
“Creativity is driving this industry," he concluded. "It’s not that different from Hollywood, both are driven by creativity. We believe fundamentally that if you get the best talent from the whole of the industry, and put them together to make games, you’ll get very high quality out of it.”