<I>The Hulk's</I> Big Step Toward Greater Convergence14 Sep, 2003 By: Kurt Indvik
The melding of the movie and video game business took a dramatic step last week when it was announced that the Oct. 28 DVD release of Universal Studios Home Video's The Hulk would have a playable level of the Microsoft Xbox version of The Hulk video game produced by Vivendi Universal Games.
I believe it's the first time a DVD has had a console-playable demo (there have been PC-playable games and demos in the past), and it is the sort of common-sense win-win-win cross-promotion that I believe we will see more of in the future. The studio wins with a great added-value element to the DVD that appeals to users of a fairly large installed base game play platform (some 5.5 million Xbox players in the United States), the video game company wins by have a great second-wave promotion for its game (in the case of Hulk, the game debuted with the theatrical debut in May), and, of course, the consumer wins by having a terrific cross-media product, a movie and (part of) a video game. There will reportedly be some technological code crossover that will allow new characters and other features on the video game to be unlocked via elements within the DVD movie.
The digital media era we live in is making this sort of convergence possible, and it can only evolve into more seamless media products as we continue to see development of multiplatform boxes and home entertainment systems that include everything but the kitchen sink. It's not surprising that movies and video games are increasingly sharing each other's characters and story lines (and have done so for years) and extending an entertainment franchise's cultural impact (and financial return) in the process. (On a side note, I am surprised that Vivendi Universal Games is reportedly not part of the deal now in negotiation between Vivendi Universal and NBC.)
On the retail front, I can't think of a better environment to take maximum advantage of this growing convergence than the video store, where games and movies are rented and sold. The video game industry has long recognized the power of a Hollywood partnership in games, and the loosening of its iron grip of its code (which is the major cultural and technological stumbling block for the industry) so that it can be included on a DVD is a big step. We'll have to see if Sony's PlayStation 2 pursues such a strategy in the near future.
And we'll have to see if the video game industry also chooses to more fully embrace the concept of video game rental (and the rental store) as a significant element of its overall strategic direction.