Lately it seems that in the end creativity seems to always get the short end of the stick.
Disney and Pixar had a much publicized falling out a few months ago (which at least according to the spin of the media was largely Disney driven). Clearly this seems odd on the heels of “Finding Nemo” being the biggest single moneymaker at both the box office and on DVD for the studio.
This week, Reuters reported that Disney and Miramax are currently “negotiating” their relationship (Miramax Chiefs, Disney Debate Control, Money ). This would seem to defy conventional logic. Miramax is a consistent hit generator (and gets regular critical acclaim for their pictures — not a common combination in Hollywood). With Disney in a position to re-up the deal for another 4 years, why do they feel that they are also in the position to renegotiate the deal? Wouldn’t their continued success suggest that Miramax holds pretty much all the cards? Remember “Chicago” at the box office? How about at the Oscars?
But this isn’t meant to be a criticism of Disney…
Also this week, Variety ran a story about the $7 billion videogame industry and the “growing pains” that the bigger companies (EA, VU, THQ) are facing due to escalating production costs (what 3 years ago was ~$1,000,000 can now run as high as $15,000,000) and demands on Wall Street. The result is that the companies are trying to control the creative development shops by buying them up and by producing primarily franchise and sequel based product to “guarantee” audiences.
It’s important to understand that Hollywood and the videogame industry have fairly different businesses despite their surface similarities:
Hollywood has things like second-run, ancillary sales, etc, the videogame industry doesn’t. Talent (most notably actors) is willing/forced to promote the hell out of Hollywood projects because of their contracts and careers.
The videogame industry is still viewed by consumers more as a consumer product company than as a part of the entertainment business, despite increasing demands for entertainment in the actual product.
Of course the insanely high marketing costs are also a factor in all of this too. So what should Hollywood and the videogame industry do? For starters:
In terms of production, who’s to say that a dysfunctional system that makes ~$6 billion annually should change? Well, for starters, I am. It’s bad enough that the industry feeds on itself and turns out so much uninteresting and unwatchable television and movies these days instead of harboring and nurturing writing and directing talent. It seems that the current trend is worse though… where’s the justification in turning on your crown jewel(s)? It seems that some folks in ivory towers need to be reminded that very little good can come from biting the hand that feeds you.
In terms of marketing, stop paying people to come up with silly schemes like plastering movie logos on everything in site that isn’t even loosely related to the movie. Instead, see yesterday’s article The Changing Landscape of Advertising… and Pizza .
The videogame industry
Regarding production, considering how little cache “a list” actors bring to titles historically and above, spend those dollars on good concepts and stories. Harken back to the excitement of the early days of videogames. Who can forget the simple but powerful emotions brought on by the some of the arcade classics like “Space Invaders” and “Donkey Kong.” Or the original “Zork” text adventures… Don’t forget the “Ultima” trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m not looking forward to the next “Grand Theft” title, but that’s, sadly, become the exception to the rule.
Regarding marketing, spend more time working the core audiences and less time trying to mass market. For one thing, it’s likely to be as, if not more, effective… for another, it’s a fraction of the cost. There are companies that specialize in things like alternative, street and guerilla marketing. For starters, take $100,000 of that multi-million dollar budget and experiment a little to see what works. There’s only upside, because the money’s already being spent.