A View from Brad King

M:I-3 Hits Theaters, Handhelds at Same Time

Forget game consoles. For the second straight year, Tom Cruise is hitting both the big and small screen this summer.

  • March 20, 2006

In the world of media, distributors speak of “windows” – the time that must lapse between the release of, say, a movie in theaters, on DVD, and on television. While there have been exceptions to the rule (see “Bubble May Bust Hollywood”), most which have failed (see “Bubble Bursts to Hollywood’s Glee”), media organizations generally release their products one medium at a time. A film, for instance, would hit domestics theaters first, followed by international theaters, then DVD, then pay-per-view, then on-demand, and finally broadcast television. It’s a good business model, since it allows everyone involved to create multiple revenue streams for one product.

Still, it’s that initial bump at the movie theater that oftentimes determines the long-term life of a particular property, so movie studios have been looking for ways to supplement their initial box-office window by selling tie-in video games that allow hard-core fans to play their favorite characters. There has been one glaring problem with this: producing a first-rate game to go with a first-rate movie is nearly impossible given the timeline. Tie-in games require complex story lines running linearly with the movie (whose scripts can change with one bad test audience), ancillary material, voice-overs, and star likenesses.

On top of that, it can take several years to complete a rich, complex game. The game development and release window has proven the downfall of console games, such as Enter the Matrix, which had impressive sales during its initial release (which coincided with the release of the movie, The Matrix Reloaded) – before fading into oblivion once fans realized the game play lacked any real challenge.

With the specter of an ever-changing script and an increasingly difficult producer/star in Tom Cruise, Paramount Pictures – as it did with Steven Speilberg’s War of the Worlds – has wisely decided to release a simpler version of its Mission: Impossible 3 game, not to game consoles, but to 150 mobile carriers around the world, according to this story in the Hollywood Reporter.

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