EA, Ubisoft, Microsoft tune in to tie-ins

MI6 2010: Marketing reps explain the speed bumps and benefits when taking projects like Dead Space, Assassin's Creed, and Halo from the small screen to the big screen and beyond.

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Who was there: Frank O'Connor, franchise development director for Microsoft's Halo publishing label 343 Industries; Dan Morris, director of strategy and development for Electronic Arts; and Andy Swanson, senior director of consumer products for Ubisoft.

What they talked about: Swanson began the session by explaining the difference between entertainment brands and game brands. He said entertainment brands like Spider-Man, Transformers, and Pokemon all expanded well beyond their original medium. Swanson was particularly impressed by Lego Star Wars, which is actually a combination of two existing entertainment brands that is in itself a unique, third brand.

Two great tastes that taste great together! And form a third great taste!

Swanson said what makes something an entertainment brand is that fans can interact with it in a variety of ways, from books and movies to theme parks and games. As for what makes for a good entertainment brand, Swanson said they need to have fleshed-out characters that consumers like and some storytelling potential, as well as be a shareable experience to foster discussion.

Swanson said he looks to Marvel as an example of doing the brand-building task right. The company narrowly avoided going under entirely in 2000, in large part because it took a more active role in licensing and putting its characters in as many different forms as possible. While game companies dabble in this, Swanson said it could be done better. At the moment, he said gaming brand extensions are largely limited to book and comic publishing, apparel, toys, and higher-end collector's items.

Morris took over to explain a change in EA's approach to brands in recent years. He said the publisher basically spent two decades creating original intellectual properties but never gave a second thought to extending those brands beyond the world of games. While there was a comic book here or a tie-in there, Morris said there was no coordinated effort and no opportunity for the company to learn from its past mistakes.

At least Dead Space's character design leaves casting decisions wide open.

To remedy that, EA centralized its brand-extension efforts. One small team now works with all of the developers to coordinate their project's leaps beyond the gaming screen. The publisher's slogan, as articulated by John Riccitiello, is IP Cubed: Create, Sequel, Extend. Morris is focused on the "extend" part of that equation and started going over the publisher's attempts to break onto the big screen.

To get into movies, EA allied itself with people that knew how to make movies better than EA did. The publisher has an exclusive deal with United Talent Agency to set up motion picture deals for a variety of its key properties. Morris said the good news is that with UTA and the original IP EA owns, the publisher has been able to land a few deals, specifically Dante's Inferno, Dead Space, Spore, and Army of Two. Morris said EA is hands-on with all of those projects because the worst thing for the company would be for these films to get made--but get made poorly.

While Hollywood film production is riddled with pitfalls, EA isn't waiting for those projects to get made before establishing itself in films. Morris pointed to the Dante's Inferno and Dead Space: Downfall animated features created with Film Roman as efforts to push their brands into different aisles of the local department store while the company waits for its Hollywood projects to come together. The company is also planning to release further animated projects to tide fans over and "act as the glue" between major releases of a series.

Swanson discussed Ubisoft's recent experiments with short films, saying the publisher wants to keep control of its own IP but also learn about the process of filmmaking in the process. The effort started in 2008, when Ubisoft purchased Montreal-based Hybride Technologies to collaborate with its game makers on new projects. The first product of that union was Assassin's Creed: Lineage, an episodic series of short films created to promote Assassin's Creed II (the full film was also aired on Spike TV around the game's launch).

Ubisoft tested the filmmaking waters with its marketing of Assassin's Creed II.

The next step for Ubisoft is to bring in some filmmaking talent, Swanson said. The upcoming Ghost Recon: Future Soldier short film will be the test for that, as the company has Oscar-winning short film directors Francois Alaux and Herve de Crecy helming the 30-minute film. Ubisoft has also teamed with Ridley Scott's Little Minx to produce the project. The Future Soldier project will set the stage for the game, which is scheduled for a fall release. A trailer for the short showed Ghost Recon troops equipped with an abundance of high-tech toys, including remote-controlled mobile artillery pieces, shoulder-mounted rocket launchers, and light-bending active camouflage equipment.

For his part of the presentation, O'Connor shared some of the lessons Microsoft has picked up after a decade of working on the Halo franchise. He said the most important thing for any franchise in any medium is that, "You have to own your own universe." He said Call of Duty is a bigger franchise than Halo at this point, but Activision doesn't "own" the universe. A Hummer appearing in anything Call of Duty would still need to be licensed, and there's no monopoly on historical events.

Publishers need to be careful about extending their brands only into areas that make sense, given the game in question.

Once a company has its own universe, O'Connor said it needs to understand that universe, as well as the audience for it. Nothing can stay the same forever, but knowing what the heart of the universe is and why people like it helps shape good decisions about what to change.

O'Connor said that Microsoft has a long-term plan for the Halo franchise, but it has changed over time. While O'Connor said an opportunistic strategy is bad, it behooves a publisher to dabble in areas where it isn't an expert as it can pay dividends. In particular, O'Connor said Halo toys and pajamas turned out better than expected.

At the same time, O'Connor stressed that "You have to do what's right for your franchise." Microsoft approved a version of the board game Risk for Halo Wars because the basic gameplay of Risk could be fairly easily mapped to the Halo universe. However, the company passed on Halo Monopoly because it just didn't make sense with the license. Another hurdle to clear is the ESRB age gate. Since the ratings board mandates that M-rated games not be marketed to children, O'Connor said Microsoft has to be very careful about what ancillary products it tries to sell and how it tries to sell it.

Quote: "It's not the same as the video game industry in any way. They are not necessarily about selling things."--O'Connor, on the lessons learned from dabbling in the film industry with Halo Legends.

Takeaway: Gaming is still at the tip of the iceberg as an entertainment medium. Examples of massive entertainment brands that sprung from games may be limited today (Pokemon, for instance) but should be significantly more common in the future.

Discussion

56 comments
Black_Adder_
Black_Adder_

@ Mar044 Hitman movie flew out through my window after a few wasted hours of my life...I hope I didn't hit anyone with that garbage

DrMatta
DrMatta

Because directors who won an oscar can ONLY make good stuff. -__-

Mar044
Mar044

hitman movie was good, or at least i thought so

killing_spree20
killing_spree20

Can we not have more rubbish films please? Save the money and make the games better first.

funnysplay
funnysplay

Frank O'Connor was right when he said you half to own your own universe.

SDBusDriver1979
SDBusDriver1979

@ mrzero1982pt2 Your right I forgot I drank a ton of that stuff twooooooo. Artifical sweetaaaaw must of got to me haed..................... Whats inside can't be healthy but I love it.

Beetroot502
Beetroot502

while watching Assassin's Creed the movie, you get to press X to view alternate angles in the memory.

mrzero1982pt2
mrzero1982pt2

@SDBusDriver1979 mountain dew gamer fuel did come back with the world of warcraft thing last year... i love that stuff! lets hope they come out with it again because of halo reach

dynomitemasta
dynomitemasta

How about hiring some talented screenwriters that come up with fresh ideas and leave video games alone. Resident Evil and Silent Hill were two very creepy video games and two very crappy movies that didn't have half a scare between the two of them..... I you can't make a great movie with all the content those franchises offer up it's a useless cause.... just stick to games.

Conduras
Conduras

We are proud to present Assassin's Creed The Movie , rated M . Watching it in theaters will require an internet connection ofc .

theKOOK413
theKOOK413

I'm interested in the fact that Ubisoft snagged some high end directors to do the Ghost Recon short film. Should make it great

SDBusDriver1979
SDBusDriver1979

If only it would bring back that Mountain Dew gamer fuel, it was like carbonated gushers.

prioritymail
prioritymail

Go Ubisoft! I like where they are taking their franchises. Hopefully there will be some full movies!

Jeebes007
Jeebes007

I reckon halo's one will be really cool becasue they could set up a movie practically anywhere and make up a great storyline without going out of context with the games original ideas. There is just so much potential for halo to be a blockbuster. I agree with FlamingNinja77 aswell, if they make a gears of war movie without giving me some damn good explanations as to why they didnt do halo or ghost recon instead i'll be pissed as hell.

strayfies
strayfies

They don't make movies to be good, that much is obvious. They make movies because they know millions of skeptical gamers will go and pay to see some strained iteration of something they enjoyed a while ago, and once parted with their money, will go on to complain about it. Money's still in the studio's pocket, though.

FlamingNinja77
FlamingNinja77

i think some games would make a great movie like halo (especially) COD ,Ghost recon, rainbow six, and splinter cell but i swear if anybody makes a damn gears of war movie and not something thats actually good i will be pissed

Aboombro
Aboombro

The new Ghost Recon and Halo commercials looked impressive, they just have to keep the audiences attention if they are gonna make a film

Coco_pierrot
Coco_pierrot

Remember : Doom, Super Mario Bros, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Dragon Ball ... all fail miserably ... But the anime for Street Fighter and the CG film of Final Fantasy VII Advent Children are perfect. So a movie could work but not with real actors ...

kkrakhed
kkrakhed

Therein lies the problem, they can always make great short films and commercials, but when it comes to a full-length movie, they need a decent story or it ends up sucking. Doom for instance. Curious to see how prince of persia turns out.

Darkbeyond
Darkbeyond

I think that alot of games could easily be made into great movies just watch some of the Live action Halo commericals and the Assassin's Creed Short Film

Aidmo99
Aidmo99

I really love Dragon Age, but it's one of those games that's way too long! I've played games like Final Fantasy and I've never beaten them!

Aidmo99
Aidmo99

@TheTrueMagusX1 I agree with you on that matter. In the game, you either make a decision to benefit others or a decision to benefit you. How can they fit all those possibilities into a 2-3 hour film? It's the same with Dragon Age!

TheTrueMagusX1
TheTrueMagusX1

@force_user1975 I completely disagree with your statements about Mass Effect being a good movie. Why? Well the thing with Mass Effect is known for being a game where you are Commander Shepard and your choices impact the fate of the universe. In a movie, simply put you cannot do that. You cannot determine whether the Rahcni live or not, convince Saren to commit suicide, or make the right preparations for a suicide mission. And sadly to say as well alot of people outside of gaming would dismiss Mass Effect as some sort of cliched Space adventure. They will not understand the appeal of Mass Effect as we do. And as for Metal Gear, I see where you get the plot got overly convoluted(I still can follow it) but I can see a movie made out of the original Metal Gear Solid and work if done right. Plus MGS was on a predetermined path, so I think in a sense it would work better then ME. But in all honesty I would rather none of them be movies, not until some one makes a good videogame movie that is not an anime. And I donot see that happening anytime soon!

force_user1975
force_user1975

@ GamerLegend10 Hitman was already made into a movie. Mass Effect would make a good movie, Metal Gear would make a terrible movie. With retarded people named "Big Boss" "Boss" "Big mama" and a plot that is hard to follow and doesn't really make sense. I'd skip that movie...lol

MacenKrace
MacenKrace

Currently he have Halo: Legends as a movie if you guys know about it.

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

OTHER GAMES THAT WOULD WORK AS FILMS -Metal gear solid -Mass effect -Crysis -Hitman -Medal of honor (would work like cod) -Sniper: Ghost warrior -Thief -To end all wars -Metro 2033 (already got the storyline, came from a book originally then made into a game) -Red dead redemption -Dragon age: origins -Left 4 dead (don't like the games that much but could make an alright film) -Total war, games(maybe) -Fight night (like rocky or something) -Assassins creed (not like in the lineage short films, which were rubbish) etc.

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

GAMES THAT WOULDN'T WORK FOR FILMS -Gears of war (rubbish) -MAG (only online game) -Kill zone (rubbish) -Worms (although?)(good game, but probably wouldn't work) -Breach (only online+to small a game) -Mortal combat(OK game but wouldn't work) -Tekken (was a great game, wouldn't work though, i don't think but maybe) -Street fighter -unreal tournament (slight possibility it would work)(first one was great) etc.

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

GAMES THAT MIGHT WORK FOR FILMS Splinter cell any cod game ghost recon (not like the video mentioned, which was a good advertisement but wouldn't work for a film) GTA (gangsta film. possibly life story, or part of life of someone living in a very dangerous+criminally corrupt area)(not so comical, cartoon'y or sarcastic though) Brink (could be realistically made, people have been genetically modified, new technologies allow it to work etc) (could be a cartoon like game) Forza or some other racing game (although racing games don't usually have much story it could follow a particular racer and his/her struggle to become success-full, achieve dreams etc.) Rainbow six(could work in variety of ways, following the team of S.W.A.T or other armed police, or it could follow criminals and there attempts to avoid them) Halo(read last post) etc. (the list could go on, basically games have a lot of potential to become good films, but only if there done right)

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

i think it might be good if they made a halo game(but it would have to be done by a very good film company and have a big budget to get right, the graphics would have to be amazing for it to work) a call of duty film might be easier though as it would not need much graphics and could even work with a low budget. (like 'The Hurt Locker', but anyway it could work well.

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

"Examples of massive entertainment brands that sprung from games may be limited today (Pokemon, for instance)" i thought Pokemon was a program on TV before it was a game?

Vishant
Vishant

Games have their own storylines and if I was shown what is effectively a Halo 1 playthrough in live action (to stay true to the Master Chief's experience in the first game, it would be pointless as most fans have obviously played it. In terms of Halo I believe it would be better to base it on the books. They would allow for the viewpoints of other characters to be included, similar to Halo: Reach.

Vishant
Vishant

Games have their own storylines and if I was shown what is effectively a Halo 1 playthrough in live action (to stay true to the Master Chief's experience in the first game, it would be pointless as most fans have obviously played it. In terms of Halo I believe it would be better to base it on the books. They would allow for the viewpoints of other characters to be included, similar to Halo: Reach.

roadstar93
roadstar93

I bet mass effect 2 will be a hit if they would make a movie

TurambarGS
TurambarGS

A lot of games just aren't right for the big screen - you'd lose too much by going to a medium like that. However, a lot of titles could do really well, IF handled right. And finally, unfortunately a lot of game to movie adaptations have gone ahead that NEVER should have been made. At some point in the next few years we'll end up with the perfect adaptation: a popular IP with a story that translates well when put on the big screen, which is written well, acted well and directed well. Then when that movie inevitably makes more than a billion dollars, the idiot studio execs in Hollywood will finally understand (hopefully) and we'll get more and more good products. As it is now, it seems that the generation giving the go ahead to game-movie adaptations just doesn't 'get' games or gamers and that's why we've ended up with so many bad ones. They'll get it right eventually though - but here's hoping they don't screw up some great franchises with crappy adaptations in the meantime.

Just-Adam
Just-Adam

Wait .. so Halo Monopoly didn't make sense .. but Halo Pajamas did ? :|

ban_fur
ban_fur

@shardz7 I agree with most of what you are saying but even if they do release great games very few people buy them as they are not marketed correctly (correctly being the operative word) ie psychonauts and beyond good and evil. Both excellent games that failed economically.

Palantas
Palantas

Design is not law; marketing is.

Pete5506
Pete5506

The Halo 3 release was crazy, the halo name on everything.

Shardz7
Shardz7

That's just what we need; Guitar Hero Happy Meals and Assassin's Creed underwear. These corporates must stay up all night drinking to come up with new ways to get people to part with their money. This whole marketing scheme is EXACTLY what is screwing up the industry right now and they think it's the best move ever. EA loves to push releases out the door, finished or not, because they need to tie the release with McDonald's Happy Meal campaign to make more money. WHAT DO GAMES HAVE TO DO WITH FAKE HAMBURGERS?!?! Money, money, money, money - that is all the game industry cares about these days. And a company with the name Electronic ARTS should put the ART back into the craft instead of whoring out their franchises for the sake of outdoing Microsoft. What is wrong with these people?? And EA meets Ubisoft; now we see the connection between their epic fail DRM riddled products in the scheme of things. Their next lecture will be "How to alienate fans and lose millions of dollars with copy protection!". What is ironic here is that the three companies mentioned above have been on my crap list (Ubisoft being the most recent installment) and it's almost laughable to see what they come up with next. Why not just have a retina scanning dongle to play your games - why screw around? EA might not yet have Kane Burgers at Burger King, but they definitely know how to milk a product dry to the last drop in other ways. Here's a big tip off to all you corporate types out there responsible for today's game industry - we want QUALITY, not SPAM. We want games with longevity and depth - not rehashes and 25 DLC's per title. If you up the ante on your quality, you won't need to market your game characters on cereal boxes. You'd shock us all if you finally understand that fact. As far as movie to game conversions...Michael Bay anyone? I think the best one ever was Robocop for the NES cause the graphics were so terrible that you couldn't tell if it was bad or not. Tomb Raider was kind of cool cause it got Angelina away from her 16 kids for a couple weeks and flex for the camera. Other than that - let the movie industry make movies and the game industry TRY to make decent games with value in mind.

shawnyboy95
shawnyboy95

I dunno, I hear a lot of video game-adapted movies weren't much of a great hit as people want it to be. It would probably be decent to someone who hasn't played the video game of whatever movie, but a hardcore fan would be dissapointed. @aaronfhff123 halo is not gay In no way was it homosexual, did Masterchief ever do something sexual with Arbiter, or anything homosexual-related to any other male. No. So you are WRONG. :D

MERGATROYDER
MERGATROYDER

Just design better plots for movies. Doom wasn't insanely horrible, but it lacked great elements.

aaronfhff123
aaronfhff123

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

xGlenn11x
xGlenn11x

@ mimicus In my opinion, the Resident Evil films were all quite good and entertaining.

mimicus
mimicus

Let's be honest here. Has there ever been a video game-adapted film that wasn't mediocre at best? As much as I would like to support these ideas, I have no hope left in this area. No one knows how to write a decent screenplay for a video game.

quickchord
quickchord

Anything would be better than the Doom movie at this point.

HawkEye1997
HawkEye1997

I'm not sure i really understood this article does this mean they want to make a Halo movie? HALO MOVIE WOULD BE EPIC!