Games and movies have long had a somewhat tempestuous relationship. Film adaptations of popular video game franchises can be entertaining when done well, but they also have seemingly infinite potential to go bad. Likewise, video game adaptations of popular, blockbuster films often lack the magic of the movie they're meant to market, and end up languishing without fanfare in half-price bins.
Of course, marketing tie-ins remain critically important to the film industry. So if multi-million dollar full console releases aren't working, what's a studio to do?
Apparently, just what everyone else is doing: turn to Facebook.
The Hunger Games film, based on the best-selling young adult novel, seems perfectly primed to be an action spectacular. The follows a young woman, Katniss Everdeen, who is selected to be one of twenty-four teenage tributes who fight to the death in a spectacular arena over the course of a few weeks. The dystopic world in which the Games take place could be pretty well created in a 3D game with just the tiniest bit of imagination. And yet, Gamasutra reports, no Xbox epic will be forthcoming. Casual game studio Funtactix will, instead, be releasing a tie-in game for Facebook. In an interview, Funtactix head Sam Glassenberg explained:
"The console-based film games business is rapidly disappearing," he claims. "The game quality has fallen for years, and consumers have come to realize this, resulting in a collapse of the console-movie-games market."
But that's not the only problem movie tie-ins for console suffer from. Glassenberg adds, "The production cycle for a good console game has grown to two to three years, which is longer than the production window for a film... Hitting day-and-date on a quality game is a near impossibility."
He points out that social game developers, however, can bring a Facebook title to market in months, not years, making it possible for those studios to put out a high-quality release day-and-date with a movie debut.
Glassenberg also says that, compared to their expensive console counterparts, licensed social games can potentially reach a much wider audience to promote movies to, as they are free-to-play and playable in users' browsers, providing a much lower barrier to entry.
Whether casual, browser-based tie-in games have any more resonance with passionate fans than console-based titles do remains to be seen. Given how much more quickly and at how little a comparative cost a social game can be produced, however, we seem likely to see many more similar experiments in the near future.