We all know the story: Little Company (say Brisbane based Pandemic,) gets in on the ground level, putting out great work in a field that is growing and starting to get some mainstream exposure. Little Company hangs on to its pants as all of a sudden the world jumps on to the same bandwagon. Little Company is then consumed by Large Company (for arguments sake, Bioware) through a merger. As the dust settles, Large Company is then acquired by Huge Company (perhaps EA), forming Monolith Entertainment (if you go out and trademark that… damn), consisting of half of the game developing universe and their own film studio.
We’ve already read the report from Jordan about EA’s unheard of deal to purchase Pandemic, now hot on the heels has followed more stagger inducing investments from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Viacom/MTV Networks. Investment into the gaming industry is coming thick and fast, especially from companies already involved in traditional entertainment media. The numbers are mind blowing – $500m (U.S) being channelled by both of these companies to develop their gaming arms. To add some spice to the proceedings, you also have Ubisoft setting up their own CG film studios, initially to make “small animated movies for the general public”. I won’t go on about how Ubisoft were able to do this through the funding made available through the brilliant, heart-achingly attractive and forward thinking folk of Quebec. Or how even though we have some of the best, nay THE best up and coming studios in the world already sitting here looking to expand into a tough global market, the Australian government can’t seem to understand that they need a little help to take that next big step…
These types of stories are not new, and we shouldn’t be as flabbergasted as we are. Unless it’s at the huge wads of moolah, then you should be flabbergasting away like a madman. A quick search for studios that have been bought by Sony recently turned up the likes of Evolution Studios, Zipper and Guerrilla Games. Microsoft had bought Bungie to ensure that the Halo franchise would remain an exclusive to the Xbox360, and then cut them loose now that the trilogy is complete. I don’t even have space to list the studios that EA has a hold on. One you may not know is that EA owns around 25% of Ubisoft, which they have been steadily increasing. In fact, the amount of closing, changing of hands, reforming, being bought and then sold of studios is large enough to say that it is more the rule than the exception. It’s just a part of the publishing industry, like any other where the intellectual property and the strength of the brand are all important.
So what does this mean to us, the all important gamer? The real trend, the actual story amongst this is in the news of the deals that Warner and MTV have made following what will forever be known as EA-Day. The film and music industry has finally recognised that the gaming industry has come of age, it’s hot on its heels and the two mediums must finally come together. We should at last be able to see the end of those amazingly bad gaming cut scenes with their cheesy dialogue and wooden, stilted acting. Gone will be the repetitive, yawn inducing soundtracks. Game storylines will become even more complex, engaging and entertaining as actual screenwriters are included in the development process. It may even mean that film tie-ins actually start being playable! Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson have already involved in projects with EA and Microsoft respectively, with more talent sure to follow. The music industry has also dipped it’s pinkie toe in, and you can be guaranteed that one of the next big announcements will be from a major music label or artist.
The good here definitively outweighs the bad. Even with the looming monopoly that is EA, the gaming industry is running the course we always hoped it would, as even they can see where the future lays. It is running, and perhaps skipping a bit, to a place where movies, music and gaming are no longer enemies, but entities that are inexorably intertwined for the betterment of eyes, ears, brains and controller holding hands everywhere.