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Games Tied to Movies Have Big Audience

1 Aug, 2005 By: Jessica Wolf

Games tied to movie franchises really hit home for the largest group of gamers — the growing “Gamestream” demographic — said panelists during the show's “Which Came First: The Game or the Movie?” session.

“Gamestream” gamers represent a blurring of two groups: core gamers who spend five to 15 hours per month playing video games and casual gamers who spend less than five hours.

Brands are important to the Gamestream group, and they're responsive to ad messages, said moderator Mark Friedler, CEO of GameDAILY.

The casual gamer is the heart of the market, he pointed out, making up 66 percent of the gamer demographic.

The financial advantages of the movie-game tie-in are often as important as the creative ones, said Jason Hall, SVP of Warner Interactive Entertainment. Games are expensive to make, he said, so releasing ones that can piggyback on theatrical marketing serves as a form of “risk mitigation.”

The increasingly common practice of including big-name actors or directors in the game can be pricey, but it's worth it, said Brent Weinstein, an agent with United Talent Agency. Name talent offers an increased connection to the brand and more public relations opportunities, he said.

While games with strong movie tie-ins are exciting and high-profile, the best-selling titles are standalone games — such as Halo 2, which made $125 million in first-day sales alone, a number unmatched by any movie or music title, Friedler pointed out.

Even games that tie in to a popular movie franchise have to offer good game play, and that takes advance planning as early as two years ahead of the release, Hall said. David Pokress, VP of global brand management for Activision, agreed: “We've passed on many a good license because we didn't have time to make a good game out if it.”

There is a dearth of information for retailers when it comes to game release schedules, panelists said. That's something the industry needs to fix, Hall said.

Merchandising also is an issue. Ideally, games and movies that share actors and themes should sit near, if not next to, each other on shelves, but the higher cost of game product has retailers keeping games behind counters or in locked displays, panelists said.

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