Dateline Mar. 4, 2003: Is The Cart Pushing The Horse?

December 4th, 2010

Last year, video games outpaced the entire domestic revenue of Hollywood by over $1 billion dollars. With video games increasingly being tied to blockbuster movies, the implications for alternate reality gaming are enormous.

We’ve already had a few near misses with [www.tron20.net Tron 2.0], [www.argn.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=541 Minority Report] and [www.argn.com/forums/viewforum.php?f=34 The Ring]. The two direct hits (A.I. and Alias) were both well received with the A.I. Game, The Beast, estimated at having over one million players.

[www.pushtimes.com Push, Nevada], the critically acclaimed commercial failure from ABC was one of the first cross-promoted, gender bending efforts. Even though the 10,000 active players were a pittance compared to the size of a typical TV audience, the level of activity online was nevertheless impressive. I think Hollywood finally realizes that the crossover effect between cinematic productions and the sophisticated games currently available are just crying to go together.

Take the pair of sequels to the Matrix scheduled for release this year. In conjunction with the movie release, the Wachowski brothers, who wrote and directed the movie, also wrote the game Enter The Matrix which was released this week. They shot an extra hour of footage specifically for the game. The game publisher, Infogrames, expects to derive 20% of their revenue from this one title.

What has all this to do with immersive gaming a.k.a. ARGs? “Entertainment is not about storytelling anymore. It’s about building universes where people can express themselves,” Bruno Bonnell, the chief executive of Infogrames, which will publish the game this spring, said at the launch party.

Today the games and movies exist as discrete elements. How long do you think it will be before they are one and the same? Add in the effect of online gaming and the opportunity to completely obliterate the boundaries between fact and fiction and the ability for content to warp dynamically to fit the situation and you have a medium for entertainment like something no one has ever seen.

CNN’s [edition.cnn.com/2003/TECH/fun.games/02/06/matrix.game.reut feature article] touches on this a bit, but I think they missed the real potential. The concept of the matrix where machines create an alternate reality for humans is disturbing in the context of the movie. Put some creative game designers in charge and insert the element of ‘immersion’ and I think we’ll be looking at the real reason interactive television might just have a chance.

The focus seems to be predominantly Hollywood licensing their properties for the game industry with a few notable exceptions, but I feel like the cart is pushing the horse. I fully expect the creative talents of game designers to drive their universes and worlds right into the hearts and minds of movie producers. When it happens, be prepared for an onslaught of interactive content both online and in packaged form.

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