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Can game developers expand out of the game business?

Don Reisinger considers the possibility of game developers getting into other forms of entertainment. Will it really work?

An interesting article from Kotaku today, discusses Ubisoft's intention to get into the film business and try to expand its offerings beyond video games.

"Our goal is to create a studio that will be very high quality, our goal is to try to get to the level of quality of Peter Jackson's Weta studio," Ubisoft's CEO Yves Guillemot said in an interview. "We have been working to train people, to recruit highly talented people and we are in test mode at the moment. We are going to make sure that we get to the level of Weta. We have a long way to go but in getting to that level will help us to actually be one of the studios where everybody has to go."

Peter Jackson, best known for The Lord of the Rings trilogy and as director of King Kong, is currently working in collaboration with Bungie to create a new game set in the Halo universe. The game is currently titled Halo: Chronicles, but no release date has been given.

Guillemot sounds ambitious and I applaud him for trying to do more with his business, I can't help but wonder if video game developers have any place in other forms of entertainment. Can they really create a stellar sitcom or a blockbuster hit at the theaters? Are they capable of publishing sci-fi novels?

With the way things are going in all of those industries, I don't think it's too far-fetched at all.

Video game developers producing movies and television shows? Sounds a little ridiculous at first glance, doesn't it? But if you consider the implications and the fact that a video game developer is practically the same as any film studio in Hollywood, it makes much more sense.

I don't see any reason why a company like Ubisoft can't create a business that expands into other areas of entertainment. From a purely practical sense, the company has more than enough cash to start out and with some smart investments, it shouldn't have too much trouble creating a television show and publishing some interesting novels. And with a nice idea and some technical prowess to back it up, there's no reason to suggest that it can't make a blockbuster hit at the box office.

After all, what's really stopping it? The video game industry is waxing the floor with the movie industry lately and although it hasn't yet caught up, it looks like it could quite soon. With the success of games like GTA IV and even Halo, more people are willing to spend their hard-earned cash on video games than yet another crappy film. And who can blame them? Movies are becoming more derivative each year and there are few examples of films that actually break the mold in any way.

Due to that fact, now seems like the perfect time for Ubisoft to jump into the mix. If it can come up with something that offers a unique storyline and a compelling group of characters, it shouldn't have too much trouble performing about as well as any other movie in theaters today. In fact, if the company plays its card correctly, it might be able to make the series into a major powerhouse across each industry -- film, TV, video games, and maybe even books.

But I digress. Ubisoft's decision to expand into other forms of entertainment strikes me as something that should have happened years ago. With the growing popularity of video games, it's the perfect time to bring popular titles to other forms of entertainment. And although most video game-to-movie franchises haven't performed as well as some have hoped, that's mainly due to the fact that the movie industry locked the developers out in many cases and created an adaptation that they believed would be better for moviegoers. They were wrong.

And with upcoming movies like Halo, Assassin's Creed, BioShock, and many more, it's only a matter of time before we truly figure out that the movie industry knows nothing about video games.

If Ubisoft wants to be a success in other industries, it needs to maintain creative control over the entire process and ensure that its most cherished franchises are not being ruined by execs from other companies that have no idea what the average person is really looking for.

As long as Ubisoft can stay true to what it has created and assure its current customers that the future of the company will not sell out to industry insiders, it should do just fine.

Years ago, major movie studios cornered the market with titles that made people actually want to head down to the theaters. Today, major studios are out of touch with reality and continue wasting our time with titles that provide no real value or simply don't offer a modicum of what we're looking for in a film: good acting and compelling storylines.

And that's precisely why Ubisoft can capitalize. As GTA IV has shown, it's possible to create games that can mimic the film industry and maybe even do it much better. If the company can bring that kind of experience to the theaters, it shouldn't have too much trouble breaking in and making a name for itself. But as I mentioned above, its success is contingent upon its willingness to stay true to the video game formula and not stray too far from it.

With the right vision, cash in the bank, and the desire to stay true to its roots, I think Ubisoft can become a powerhouse in any entertianment industry and companies like EA and Take-Two may have something to worry about.

I applaud Ubisoft for jumping into new industries and look forward to the day when video game developers show movie studios how entertainment is really created.

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