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HIVE EXCLUSIVE: 'Top Gun' DVD and Game – Bundling Faces Hurdles With Sony

2 Nov, 2001 By: John Gaudiosi

When Titus Interactive marketing v.p. Frederic Oualid dreamed up the idea of bundling the company's new PlayStation 2 Top Gun: Combat Zones game with Paramount Home Entertainment's Top Gun DVD movie for major retailers like Toys “R” Us and CostCo, it seemed like a match made in marketing heaven.

Paramount was glad to work with Titus, since it had plenty of Top Gun DVDs in its warehouses, and the retailers began ordering the bundles, hoping to capitalize on PS2's movie playback functionality. But even with tens of thousands of bundles on preorder from retailers, the Top Gun bundle is in limbo.

The snag is Sony Computer Entertainment America, one of the three big gatekeepers of the next generation of video games. While Sony has touted PS2's movie DVD playback ability, it has also said that any convergence between the home video and video game industries will have to be met on its own terms. In other words, DVD movies with playable PS2 game demos will have to be manufactured on PS2-coded DVDs, giving Sony control over the content.

While this scenario is a possibility down the road, as PS2 is expected to penetrate more than 5 million homes by the end of this year and more than 10 million by the end of next year, it shows, at least on the video game side, that there's not much give and take.

Still, even if Sony, which has final approval on all PS2 marketing and displays, pulls the plug on the bundle, some retailers will offer consumers who purchase the game a soft bundle, giving them a coupon to purchase the Top Gun movie DVD at a discounted rate.

Sony missed out on opportunities with The Mummy Returns and Driven this fall: neither has playable PS2 game demos.

While Microsoft won't publicly comment on its policy of playable Xbox game demos on movie DVDs, the company has not taken advantage of the Nov. 2 Shrek DVD, which has an Xbox Shrek launch title shipping on Nov. 15. It will be interesting to see what the company does with its three planned A.I. video games, especially with the DVD A.I. movie release window for 2002.

By staying out of the DVD movie playback department, Nintendo won't be dealing with these issues directly, although Panasonic is expected to release a GameCube/DVD movie hybrid in the United States as early as 2002.

The Top Gun bundle seemed harmless enough, providing dual-DVD shrink-wrapping so customers could see the fronts and backs of both the game and the movie. Titus wasn't looking to put a playable demo on the movie disc. Consumers were going to get both the game and the movie for $59.99.

“We think bundling is a wonderful opportunity, both for our game as well as for the sales of the movie,” said Oualid. “We believe the concurrent releases will boost sales of both products. We are absolutely pleased with the release of the DVD as it will once again bring the spotlight to the Top Gun license.”

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