According to The Hollywood Reporter, the general downturn in American spending on videogames is about to end… in a big way. On the same day that Microsoft announced the arrival of Project Kinect (soon to be a dorm favorite!), PricewaterhouseCoopers predicted that North American gamers will spend 7.2 percent more on video games this year than last year. That news comes right in the midst of a summer movie season that has so far been dangerously light on hits, besides a meh superhero sequel, a meh cartoon fourquel, and pretty fun 1980s remake (thanks, Jaden!) In the interest of helping our old pal, the Cinema, here are three things that Hollywood can learn from the videogame industry about pleasing us fickle thrill-seekers in the audience:
1. Don’t underestimate the appeal of simplicity
One of the top-selling games of the year is New Super Mario Bros. Wii, a game which purposefully apes the franchise’s side-scrolling roots. The simple charm of New Super Mario is that it’s not trying to blow your eyeballs through your head with its awesomeness, a mistake made by pretty much every blockbuster movie that’s come out so far this summer. Look at The Karate Kid, which managed to outrace the loud, more expensive A-Team at the box office with exactly zero digital effects. (Look, also, at the relative box office failure of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which added in a wealth of backstory and mythology to a game that was originally pretty straightforward.) Or, heck, look at The Sims, still the bestselling videogame of all time. If The Sims were a movie, it would be directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. That being said…
2. Don’t be afraid to get really weird in the sequels
One of the biggest PS3 hits of the year is God of War III. The third film in a franchise is usually where things start to go wrong (see: Spider-Man 3, X-Men: The Last Stand, Godfather 3.) Compare those dreary threequels to GoW3, which is one of the most nihilistic storylines in fantasy narrative history. (Put it this way: what other game makes god-killing a hobby?) Or consider the monstrously successful Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2: sure, most people are probably buying it for the multiplayer, but the solo game features the singularly disturbing airport scene, where you’re tasked to gun down innocent civilians.
3. People still love sports!
Where are the sports movies of yesteryear? The Major Leagues? The Any Given Sundays? The Rookie of the Years? Hollywood has pretty much given up on the old-school sports movie, but sports videogames still mint money. Where’s that Mighty Ducks reboot, already? (I don’t think Emilio Estevez is busy…)
PopWatchers, are there more lessons you think movies could learn from videogames? Or do you think that the numbers are artificially inflated, since most new games cost roughly a billion dollars? (Then again, going to see a movie in a theater, with popcorn and a drink, costs roughly two billion dollars, so that’s no excuse.) Sound off below!