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Games, DVD Play Together in Q4

29 Aug, 2002 By: John Gaudiosi

Thanks to the burgeoning licensing business between Hollywood studios and video game publishers, the $9.4 billion video game business and the $21 billion home video business are working together to cross-promote key franchises.

Although most game companies aim for the theatrical window for day-and-date releases, it's usually only the portable games that meet these deadlines, leaving the console games open to take advantage of the hefty home video marketing budgets that the latest DVDs ride onto store shelves. There are currently approximately 25 million DVD players in homes in the United States, plus approximately 9 million PlayStation 2s and 2 million Xboxes, creating a separate audience for home video companies to consider.

Opening Cross Marketing Doors
The DVD video game format for all Xbox games and some PS2 games (Sony leaves it up to the publisher to release a game on CD-ROM or DVD) also is beginning to open new cross-marketing doors. While in the past, the most that could be done on a PlayStation game was to place a trailer before a game, DVD games can offer DVD movie-style extras. Sony Computer Entertainment America's Monsters, Inc. and Stitch Experiment 626 PS2 games feature behind-the-scenes interviews and making-of reels from Pixar Animation Studios. In addition to adding value to the game, the game also helps Disney promote its upcoming Monsters, Inc. DVD.

With hefty marketing budgets behind fourth-quarter DVD movie releases and moderate marketing budgets behind many of the movie-based video games, both home video and video game companies are able to benefit from the TV, print and online exposure.

NewKidCo has big plans for its E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial video games: E.T.: Return to the Green Planet (PS2, September), a video game sequel based on a script that Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy wrote for a theatrical sequel that never happened; E.T.: The Cosmic Garden (GameCube, October), an adventure–strategy game aimed at females gamers; and E.T. and the Dark Alliance (GBA, October), a new adventure game featuring the beloved alien.

“We'll have trailers of our PlayStation 2 and GameCube games on the Universal E.T. DVD,” said Hank Kaplan, CEO, NewKidCo. “There will be a rebate coupon on the movie DVD that will give consumers $3 off the purchase of any of our E.T. games. In addition, we'll be working with Universal on retail-specific in-store programs with stores like Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Kmart.”

Activision is working with New Line Home Entertainment with Blade II, which ships for video and for PS2 and Xbox around the same time. The Blade II movie DVD will have a PS2 strategy guide for the Blade II video game on it and two PS2 cheats available via Easter Eggs.

“We have partnered with Activision on a comprehensive promotion combining prints ads, including a sweepstakes overlay in Spin and Vibe magazines,” said Lance Still, executive director, promotions, New Line Home Entertainment. “The sweepstakes offers consumers a chance to win an XBox and four Activision games. We are also conducting retail promotions with Best Buy [Buy the Blade II DVD or VHS and the game and receive $10 off instantly] and Circuit City [Buy Blade II DVD or VHS and game and receive a seven-track CD sampler free from Immortal Records].”

Activision is also working with DreamWorks Home Entertainment on the Minority Report game, which ships in mid-November in conjunction with the anticipated home video release of the film.

“Combining our co-marketing activities with those on the home video side presents a great opportunity for Activision,” said Dusty Welch, VP, global brand management, Activision. “It helps us effectively reach our consumers with programs that utilize the brand awareness of the film's theatrical release, as well as deliver original promotional content that only DVD can offer. Minority Report is a perfect example. For the video game release this fall, we're in discussions with DreamWorks to examine how we can best leverage our activities with those of home video to support the launch.”

Lord of the Games
Electronic Arts is working with MGM Home Entertainment and New Line Home Entertainment for the video game releases of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (PS2, GameCube, November) and James Bond 007: Nightfire (PC, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, November).

“For MGM DVDs, we have a cross-sell promoting Bond DVDs in our 007 NightFire game manuals and 007 NightFire inserts in all single pack DVDs and mini hint-guide stickers on all DVD gift sets,” said Don Mesa, product manager, James Bond games, Electronic Arts.

“One of the bonus features of the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers video game will be interviews we did with the cast members about what it was like doing the voicework for the games and what it was like seeing themselves in the game,” said John Harris, marketing manager for The Lord of the Rings products, Electronic Arts. “There is a three-minute ‘making of the game' featurette on the August The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring movie DVD from New Line, and we'll promote the DVD on our game.”

“We are planning some programs with EA and the extended cut of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, but nothing has been confirmed yet,” Still said. “It's safe to say a comprehensive program is in the works.”

Universal Interactive is working with Universal Studios Home Video to promote its simultaneous The Scorpion King game and DVD release.

“We can now feature trailers, promotions and even more interactive entertainment on our games from our home video division on such franchises as The Scorpion King, and vice versa, where we are both releasing The Scorpion King product,” said Torrie Dorrell, SVP, marketing, Universal Interactive. “We can do the same with each other's video and game product that have similar demographics. We did this with The Mummy Returns last year and will see it this year with The Scorpion King, among other titles. The DVD format opens up new worlds for a studio such as Vivendi Universal, and we are regularly leveraging these opportunities.”

Trailers Used for Game and DVD
BAM! Entertainment is working closely with Buena Vista Home Entertainment on the Reign of Fire video game and home video release. The game trailer will be included on the movie DVD, and the game DVD will have a behind-the-scenes trailer of the movie, as well as a featurette on a band from the movie soundtrack. Retail cross-promotion is also being finalized.

LucasArts has a pair of Episode II video games, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Bounty Hunter, that will be cross-promoted at retail this fall and take advantage of Fox and LucasFilm's DVD and home video marketing for the title. Capcom, which will ship Resident Evil Zero this fall for GameCube, plans to work with Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment with the release of the Resident Evil Special Edition DVD this fall.

Even when cross-promotions aren't physically in place, video game companies and home video companies will benefit from releases. While Ubi Soft Entertainment's talks with Paramount Home Entertainment didn't result in any cross-promotions, the PS2, Xbox and GameCube The Sum of All Fears video games will benefit from Paramount's Oct 29 DVD release of the movie.

With no end in sight on the Hollywood licensing front, home video and video game companies will continue to find new ways to work together going forward. As PS2 is expected to reach an installed base of more than 15 million homes by the end of this year, video games also will offer home video companies the opportunity to market DVDs specifically to gamers and even offer playable PS2 games on the discs.

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