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Kotick Hints At Direct-To-Consumer Video Game Movies

Kotick Hints At Direct-To-Consumer Video Game Movies

September 15, 2010 | By Kris Graft

September 15, 2010 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

Activision Blizzard has its eyes set on becoming the most profitable entertainment company, not just in games, but in the overall entertainment industry. CEO Bobby Kotick on Wednesday dropped hints about one facet of reaching that goal.

Speaking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch's Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference in Newport Beach, CA, Kotick noted that July's StarCraft II has about an hour's worth of cutscenes that are created with the title's in-game engine.

He theorized, "If we were to take that hour, or hour and a half, take it out of the game, and we were to go to our audiences for whom we have their credit card information as well as a direct relationship and ask, 'Would you like to have the StarCraft movie?', my guess is that ... you'd have the biggest opening weekend of any film ever."

Kotick noted that unlike film studios that are stuck with a model that requires costly theatrical distribution that cuts in on margins, Activision Blizzard could go directly to its consumers via online. The CEO mentioned a possible $20 or $30 price tag for such a film, but at this early stage, it's all speculative.

But it still seems that such an initiative is inevitable for the publisher. "Within the next five years, you are likely to see us do that. That may be in partnership with somebody, it may be alone," he said.

"But there will be a time where we capitalize on the relationship that we have with our audience, and deliver them something that is really extraordinary and let them consume it directly through us instead of theatrical distribution," Kotick added.

Citing some unspecified research at Activision, the CEO said that if the company were to distribute a movie directly to consumers' homes, "an extremely high percentage [of consumers] would then go to the theater then watch it again. That's the nature of our consumer -- a very enthusiast consumer."

Kotick has clearly been thinking about this convergence between games and film, but not in the "Hollywood + Games" context that most game companies adopt. The CEO is thinking more about relying less on outside Hollywood-related entities like movie studios, film distributors, external intellectual properties and Hollywood actors, and doing as much as possible to build Activision Blizzard and its properties internally -- essentially keeping the profits within Activision's walls.

"For starters, our virtual characters don't have agents, they don't have managers, they don't have lawyers," he said. Kotick noted inherent inefficiencies in the way TV and films are made as well, such as in the case of a re-shoot, having to schedule and gather directors, actors, cameramen and other resources to come back and redo a scene.

"Our business is the exact opposite," he said. "We can iterate and test and iterate and test until we get a really great result. And if you have the scale, the resources, capability and discipline that we have, that ensures a much better commercial result."

Several times throughout his presentation, Kotick also referred to new advancements in facial animation technology, particularly in November's Call of Duty: Black Ops, that allows virtual characters to express more emotion, and more easily connect with the series' millions of players -- in other words, they're more like real actors.

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