The business of licensed games is undergoing a fundamental shift thanks to the advent of social and mobile platforms, according to Funtactix CEO Sam Glassenberg, whose company is the developer behind The Hunger Games Adventures, the Facebook game based on The Hunger Games feature film.
Evidence of the shift isn't difficult to spot. When this generation started in 2005, seven of the top 10 grossing films in the US had gaming adaptations released at retail. For 2012, the numbers are reversed. Seven of the top 10 grossing films in the US have no retail gaming adaptation, including the top three films of the year: Marvel's The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Hunger Games.
Making a Facebook game out of a film in which children fight to the death may seem like an unconventional choice, but Glassenberg told GamesIndustry International that projects like his are only going to become more common in the future.
"We are changing the way Hollywood does business," Glassenberg said. "The lines are blurring. The old model was marketing would go and invest in cheesy advergames for the movie that nobody cared about, and licensing would run out and try to license some big console game. But now the walls between marketing and licensing are starting to fall."
"[T]he walls between marketing and licensing are starting to fall."
With console adaptations, Glassenberg said the challenge was finding the intersection of fans who owned the $300 system and were already big fans of the property, because nobody else was likely to shell out $60 for the game. But a lower barrier to entry for customers and the fact these games work on hardware people are likely to own anyway lets them kill a whole flock of birds with one stone, increasing awareness, drawing people to the theaters, raking in licensed goods revenue, and creating a community that can be turned to again when it's time to promote the DVD release or a theatrical sequel.
"You're creating something that's a revenue-generating profitable product on its own, but at the same time, it's the ultimate marketing tool," Glassenberg said. "Because not only does it market the movie, it markets everything that comes after and keeps the audience engaged."
The Hunger Games Adventures boasts more than 200,000 players, and is currently the fifth highest rated adventure game app on Facebook. The second film in the franchise, Catching Fire, is set for release November 22, 2013.