Why the film industry should be fearful of gamers

Don Reisinger thinks the film industry is making a huge mistake by ignoring the video game industry. Is that true?

This weekend was a major time for both the video game and film industry. Whether you sat at home playing Grand Theft Auto IV or decided to head down to your local theater and check out Iron Man, you had choices to make. And it's that choice -- video game or movie -- that has been setting the movie industry's profits ablaze and creating an entertainment environment that could be turned upside down.

Iron Man
So much for success Iron Man

Now I know what you're thinking -- "the movie industry is as mainstream as you can get and the video game business is still a niche." Sure, some may espouse those beliefs, but this past week has shown that games like GTA IV are capable of competing at the same level with major movies and become a mainstream focus in this industry.

In other words, the outdated notion that the video game industry is for the geeks and the film industry is for everyone else, simply doesn't hold water anymore. Instead, we're currently knee-deep in an environment that's not only welcoming to the video game industry, but has proven to be damning to the film business.

And I, for one, couldn't be more ecstatic about it.

But let's face it -- the problems in the film industry cannot all be tied to video games. Instead of creating great movies that most people want to see, the film studios are endorsing films that are nominally better than watching paint dry and the cost of seeing those films -- at least $10 at the theater -- is ridiculous. To make matters worse, the theaters force you to pay over $4 for bottled water and ridiculous sums of cash for popcorn and other snacks.

On the other hand, video games haven't been better. With immediate classics like Mario Kart Wii and GTA IV in just the last month alone, people are more than willing to pick up titles. Even better, the extremely low barrier to entry -- about $60 -- makes up for the cost of a ticket and popcorn at the movie theater, and then some.

Some say that the downturn in the film business has nothing to do with the video game industry and the success of games like GTA IV are the result of issues in the film industry. I think that's totally ridiculous. How can anyone possibly say that when looking at the state of both industries objectively, the increased popularity of video games doesn't have a major impact on the film business?

According to the AP, Iron Man, this weekend's blockbuster hit, raked in approximately $201 million worldwide since its release last week and $100.7 million during its opening weekend. And although it enjoyed the tenth-biggest opening of all-time, it paled in comparison to last year's Spiderman 3, which enjoyed revenue of over $151.5 million in its opening weekend.

The revenue drop represents a 15 percent slide year-over-year and according to reports, movie theater attendance is down approximately 6 percent since 2007.

So far, there is little information known about how many copies of GTA IV have been sold. Only one report from the UK has been made public, which suggests that about 600,000 copies of the title were sold in one day, representing a new record in sales.

That said, most believe GTA IV's actual worldwide sales figures will easily eclipse the entire film industry and create one of the biggest blockbuster hits in any form of entertainment. Most analysts believe that GTA IV could be such a success, that over 9 million units will leave store shelves and $466 million will be added to Take-Two's coffers.

If true, can you imagine the effect such a jump in sales could have on the dynamic between both the video game and film industries? When it comes to the entertainment industry, which the film studios have begrudgingly allowed video game developers into, everyone is competing for the same people and the same dollars. Realizing this, can it not be said that GTA IV has been a major reason why Iron Man wasn't the hit Spiderman 3 was last year?

Suffice it to say that there's really no way to determine if video games have had an impact on film sales, but the more I research the topic, the more I believe they do. Since video games have become more mainstream and looked more like a movie than anything else, the film studios have single-handedly destroyed their chances at responding in kind and have belittled the video game industry in the hope that we all will too.

Instead, video game developers have been the guards of innovation and real entertainment whereas the film studios have been the keepers of bland ideas.

In reality, the link between those two industries has almost everything to do with their differing cultures where one rewards those who are on a budget and another makes them pay for everything.

The film industry is clinging to a false sense of reality that hopes video games will simply go away. They won't. And if the studios don't wake up and realize that reality soon, look for even more problems to arise while major game releases eclipse the success of even the biggest film of the year.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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