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Hollywood turning to mobile games models

Call of Duty director sees short-form games breathing life into movie licenses

Call of Duty and Saints Row talent director Keith Arem believes that short-form games, for console downloadable platforms, mobile and tablets, could help Hollywood succeed in video games after years of releasing disappointing movie tie-ins on consoles.

The well-documented movie-to-game problems of low budgets and incompatible development periods have been magnified this generation, as the market for middle tier products has collapsed.

Movies such as Avatar and Iron Man have been huge hits at the cinema, but their game counterparts have had little impact in the interactive space, while some publishers have steered clear of film licenses entirely.

It doesn't make sense to have a $40 million game based on a $15 million movie.

Keith Arem, PCB Productions

But Arem, who works in film, games, comics, ARG and other media, believes the declining console market will be beneficial to Hollywood.

"What's happened recently with the console industry starting to downsize quite a bit and sales being down, even though the larger franchises like Call of Duty have been significantly up, what's that done is there's a tremendous amount of talent that has come out of the games industry who are still looking to work in games but have moved into smaller and short-form content for the iPad or downloadable games for PSN, Xbox Live, iPhone," said Arem in an interview published today.

"This explosion of content has been built with smaller budgets and lower barriers of entry to develop a game, whilst still keeping the quality very high. And it also reduces the development cycles which will allow them to coincide with the films much better. Within the next two to three years you're going to see a much stronger integration between films and short-form games."

The film industry is more aligned to these new development models - more so than the old game production methods, said Arem, where the creation time for a hit game was at least twice as long as any movie production.

"A film that normally wouldn't have had a game associated with it now will have an iPad or mobile game to coincide with it.

It won't be the quality and length of game you'd see from Black Ops or Modern Warfare but you're going to see more integration between films and games now that barrier to entry has become much closer to what the film industry can relate to," said Arem.

Not only do development times and smaller budgets make sense to Hollywood, it's also already in the habit of creating content that spans two hours rather than the ten hours or more expected from a console game.

"Most games are going to be 12-16 hours of content, but with a film the story and content is only designed for 90 minutes to two hours. Once you've found out Bruce Willis is a ghost the rest of the 14 hours for that game isn't exciting," offered Arem.

"Something 2-3 hours long can be a tenth of the cost and a fraction of the length in development. If that does well a sequel or second episode is more likely.

And it also doesn't make sense to have a $40 million game based on a $15 million movie. Now we might see movie games with a budget of $5 million and they are much more creative endeavours because the content is much more accessible to the film and game industry."

The full interview with Arem, where he discusses getting the most out of acting talent, working on controversial content and the current buzz around transmedia products, can be read here.

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Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.

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