The relationship between the movie and games industries has traditionally been a one-sided affair, characterised - fairly or unfairly - by videogame companies scrambling desperately to pick up Hollywood's licenses while some of their own finest franchises are sold off for a pittance to be made into cheap B-movies.
Much as it'd be nice to say "not any more" at this point, that's a statement that can't be uttered while hack directors like Uwe Boll still hold the rights to decent gaming franchises - but even if things aren't much better just yet, there's certainly a breath of change in the air.
Hollywood is suddenly paying attention to games, not just as a way of adding revenue to its summer blockbusters, but as a genuinely creative medium where some of the greatest minds of the generation are telling their stories - and hence, as a medium which deserves to be treated with respect when it crosses over to the silver screen.
Silent Hill is a good example, with Konami's superbly twisted and brilliantly executed horror series being brought to the movies via the pen of the co-author of Pulp Fiction. A much bigger, more high-profile example is Bungie's science fiction epic Halo. We already knew that British author Alex Garland, best known for The Beach and 28 Days Later, was writing the script for a cool million dollars, but this week Microsoft showed just how serious it is about playing hardball with this franchise.
Okay, so it's a bit of a flashy stunt to use an actor dressed as the Master Chief to deliver copies of the script to the offices of top movie studios, but the terms and conditions Microsoft is demanding are no joke. It wants a serious cut of the profits, it wants a massive commitment to investment, it wants work to start on a remarkably short timescale, and perhaps most importantly, it wants Bungie to retain full creative control.
In fact, Microsoft wants so much that by all accounts several studios have dropped out of the bidding for the project already, but the sheer muscle of the Halo name means that many others are still in the running. Eyebrows have certainly been raised by the demands, but ultimately, that's not because Microsoft is being unreasonable - it's because the rest of the industry has been too ready to be used as a doormat by Hollywood just for the chance of getting games made into movies, no matter how rubbish the movies end up being.
At the end of the day, Halo is an incredibly valuable and well-regarded property, and it would be better for there to be no Halo movie at all than for there to be a weak, badly made movie which simply devalues the franchise. It's not unfair to describe franchises like Halo in terms of literary properties like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings; properties, in other words, which did really rather well in their original form and didn't get made into movies until such time as the right conditions were in place. It should be no different for games companies.
Of course, you could point out that for years, the games industry has also been making a dogs dinner out of Hollywood franchises with unimaginative and badly made film tie-in games - but even here there are notable exceptions, such as last year's Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. These examples prove that Hollywood and the games industry don't have to be at odds. These industries can co-exist, can both make great products and can make a hell of a lot of money in the process - but it's going to take some hard-nosed approaches from players like Microsoft to make that happen. We sincerely hope that they find success. Oh, and that they get Jim Cameron to direct; well, we can dream...
Rob Fahey is the editor of GamesIndustry.biz, and can be reached at [firstname.lastname@example.org].
This editorial originally appeared in the GamesIndustry.biz News Digest, a free email news bulletin which is distributed to subscribers every day of the week and features a round-up of the key headlines of the day, the latest major share movements from industry companies, and the day's new job postings. Each Thursday afternoon, this digest is presented in a special omnibus form with the week's game charts and an editorial focus piece.
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