GRAND THEFT AUTO V Is Not Scaring Hollywood

     September 22, 2013

Add in the staggered release dates for movies around the world, and it’s virtually impossible for them to make that much money in one day.

grand-theft-auto-5-michaelMovies, however, have a more significant advantage over video games: the opportunity to keep milking audiences for revenue.

Once I’ve bought a video game, I own it. It’s on my shelf at home. I’m not likely to buy it again. There’s a reason developers have come up with increasingly creative ways to pry open your wallet with DLC and in-game transactions.

Movies, on the other hand, are re-watched over and over. Once they finish making their millions at the box office, they start making even more millions in home video release, on DVD, Blu-ray, or iTunes. After that, they can earn even more through broadcasting rights on television or in streaming deals with Netflix or Amazon.

The overhead for Hollywood’s secondary release windows is relatively small. They’re just repackaging the same movie. Compare that to video game DLC, especially for narrative titles. They’ve basically got to produce a whole new game, just in miniature. No wonder they usually just make a sequel.

Certainly, merchandise revenue is an option for video games, but it’s been a staple of Hollywood’s business for a few decades now. On the other hand, when was the last time you went to a theme park designed around a video game franchise?

grand-theft-auto-5-trevorOf course every Hollywood producer would love to spend $265 million making and marketing their movie – the reported budget for GTA V – to earn back $1 billion plus. So would every other person on the planet, regardless of what they were peddling. But GTA V’s success hasn’t got much to do with Hollywood’s fiscal outlook.

You don’t even need complicated analyses. Just do basic math and ask simple questions about the two industry’s business models. It’s simple, really.

So why did so many people not bother to do that?

The Los Angeles Times piece quoted Doug Creutz, a media analyst, saying “It felt like you were in a Quentin Tarantino film.” That single quote is more telling than all the media hype about video games leaving Hollywood enviously drooling on the side of the road.

Of course they would describe the video game by comparing it to a movie. They didn’t just compare the financial profits to movies. They compared the actual game experience itself.

The video game industry has come to define itself in relation to its cinematic cousins. Developers have lobbied to gain critical acceptance and mainstream recognition. Gamers have argued vociferously that their medium of choice is truly the superior one. Never mind the inanity of debating which art form is superior. These gamers have pointed out, and rightly so, that the cost-per-hour of entertainment in your average top-tier video game is way cheaper than the cost of a movie.

grand-theft-auto-5-franklin-jet-skiSlowly, these people have successfully shaken off the image of gaming as the purview of socially inept shut-ins.

I’m one of these people. Sorry, ghost of Roger Ebert, but games have shown themselves to be as artistically powerful as any other creative medium.

Yet while video games, and their fans, have gained increasing commercial relevance and cultural cache, they’ve never quite shaken the chip off their shoulder. You know the one. The indignant huffing and puffing that video games deserved all of this sooner, and maybe they deserve even more.

That is what’s underneath all of this shoddy reporting and ignorant commentary.

Why can’t gamers just be happy with incredible visuals, massive interactive worlds, and increasingly rich storytelling? They have to somehow beat the cool kids in Hollywood too?

So to every lazy reporter and gamer fanatic out there stoking this nonsense competition between movies and video games: This isn’t Revenge of the Nerds. Grow up already.


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