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Marketplace Morning Report

Game over for Hollywood video game tie-ins

Molly Wood and James Perla Jul 24, 2015
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Pixels, a film debuting this weekend, features a rag tag team of gamers fighting against giant arcade game characters, like Pac-Man, who are attacking planet earth. And along with the movie, there are two free apps based on the flick where you can essentially play Pac-Man, Centipede, and Frogger.

This summer also saw a $50 Jurassic World console video game using the Lego game brand. So, why all the video game spin-offs of Hollywood movies? Marketplace’s Molly Wood talks with Adrienne Hill about these video game tie-ins … and their spectacular failures.

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According to Hill, we’ve had video game tie-ins “almost as long as we’ve had video games. Back in the arcade days, even.” However, Hill says, “a lot of these games have been average or really bad.” 

One such game was the ET game for the Atari 2600. It was so bad, it’s credited with being part of the reason the industry tanked in the 80’s. Jon-Paul Dyson, the director of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games at the Stong Museum of Play, reveals the story behind the ET game:

“The developer Howard Scott Warshaw had only about a month to translate this movie into a console game for the Atari 2600, which was the most popular video game console of the time. And it was really an impossible task. It was the story of this alien trying to make his way home. There was not really the battles or other things people knew how to make for video games at the time”

The disaster of the ET game reveals a lot about why movie tie-in games still struggle. Hill explains that the “developers don’t have enough time to work in these games. They often don’t have the budget that a really good game requires because these things don’t ever sell great.” Also to blame? The games often seem more like a marketing ploy than an attempt at making a quality game. 

With video games becoming more cinematic than ever and movies using graphics to create virtual worlds, it might be game over for video game tie-ins.

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