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Why Movie Games Suck

| 6 May 2009 18:53
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Ever wonder why videogame tie-ins to hit movies suck so bad? According to the founders of developer Rebellion, the nature of the business and the differences between movie and game development make it almost unavoidable.

Name a good videogame based on a movie. Go on, I dare you. You can't, can you? (Actually, I hear the new Wolverine game is pretty decent.) There's a good reason for that, say Chris and Jason Kingsley, the brothers who founded U.K.-based developer Rebellion: By the time all the pre-development groundwork gets laid there's just not enough time left to come up with a decent game.

"The problem is it's actually quicker to make a movie than it is to make a game these days, by quite a big margin," Chris Kingsley, Chief Technology Officer at Rebellion, told Develop. "That's always a big problem, because often you're not given enough time to make the game. So you have to fit to the schedule that you have."

The problem is getting worse, he added, as the process of negotiating franchise licenses has grown increasingly lengthy and complex. "It used to be a couple of months or so; now it usually takes much longer with budgets going up as well and more riding on the success of games," he continued. "That time spent negotiating you don't have at the end of the project, because the endpoint doesn't move."

His brother Jason, Rebellion's CEO, echoed those comments, saying that while movies can go from approval to release in a year it doesn't provide enough of a window to properly develop a game. "Generally speaking, when you start talking with somebody about a title, it takes three months to get a letter of intent, and then another six months to get a contract," he said. "By that time you're already nine months in, and really you should be submitting at that stage to Sony or Microsoft or whoever for approval."

"There really isn't a way of getting around it unless you are dealing with major movie groups who can schedule their releases two or three years ahead," he added. But even in those cases, Kingsley noted that problems can arise because of the planning necessary to "schedule in key actors."

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