The entertainment industry on a whole is a strange beast, full of opportunities for writers; artists, script writers, musicians and you name it. There are more movies coming out of Hollywood and independent film studios than we can happily keep track of. Every genre is basically covered by these films and becoming more and more popular these days are movies based on games, comics, books and so forth.
There are also niche and cult films that don't quite get the imagination or the backing of the big studios, just like their TV counterparts they are pushed to the background and whilst the fans clamour and scream for more content, sequels, episodes and information to do with their beloved cult heroes, they are left mostly wailing in the dark and hoping that one day the studios give them the sequel they desperately want.
Then you have actors like Vin Diesel, a man who captured a new generation of film fans with his portrayal of futuristic escaped convict Richard.B.Riddick in Pitch Black, a cult film that won my heart and scored a high place on my beloved DVD shelf. Pitch Black was successful enough that there was a sequel, one that expanded the Riddick Universe and touched upon several themes that one might have found in Dune or Warhammer 40K. The Chronicles of Riddick was loved by many fans, me included.
Yet the studios did not share Vin's love of it and it remained a sequel, with very little hope of a return to the Riddick Universe. That was until the seminal Xbox game: Escape from Butcher Bay, a game that filled in the gaps of Riddick's early story and was scripted by industry veteran writers: Flint Dille and John Zuur Platten. Butcher Bay was a very solid game and along with the DVD, Dark Fury, it gave fans more of what they wanted.
Later on the sequel, Dark Athena added even more to the Riddick Universe and allowed Vin to return to a character he had made his own.
Fast forwards to 2010 and the news that Riddick 3 will be released at some point, directed by David Twohy and starring Vin again as Riddick. This is an important announcement because it showcases a new trend, a trend that is definitely on the up in the entertainment industry as a whole. The idea that alternate revenue streams created from the sales of such consumer goods as DVD's, CD's, video games, comics, books and even pen and paper roleplaying games are strong enough, when combined, to take the place of the big studio funding and allow movie makers to fund their own sequels.
These alternate revenue streams have become more important since the advent of the internet, with social networking sites, alternate reality games and more on the rise; various entertainment publishers can get their products out to a wider audience. Highly successful games such as Batman: Arkham Aslyum and Modern Warfare 2 could in theory fund their own movie spin-offs, rather than being saddled with an often lack-lustre film to game port.
Even the TV industry is getting into the act in a big way; recently, the BBC licensed their huge science-fiction television show Doctor Who, opening the doors to Cubicle 7, a forward-thinking roleplaying game publisher to create a pen and paper roleplaying game based on the 10th Doctor's incarnation in the show. The BBC has since opened their doors wider and now there are plans for more Doctor Who related games, PC games, console games and more.
This is proof-positive that to keep a franchise alive between iterations, you need extra income created by the spin-off materials. For every Halo game there's a soundtrack, a comic, over a thousand fans clamouring for replica figures of Master Chief and the Covenant, there are animated specials and downloadable content exclusive to the series. Every game is now leaping on the bandwagon and offering players more content for their pounds, yen, dollars, you name it.
Modern Warfare 2 has sold a massive amount, it's probably one of the most successful franchises on the face of the planet, you could argue that if you wanted to make a movie out of that game, you could very easily fund it with the money made from sales of the game's regular edition, or the special editions. The spin-off potential is staggering when you look at it and start to see the patterns emerging in the industry as a whole.
For example: On launch day alone MW2 managed to gross $310 million, in the first week that figure was estimated to be $550 million. The figures speak for themselves.
It's a self-sustaining revenue stream that provides more content for the fans, bigger budgets for the game developers and opportunities for the attached entertainment industry. I know for one that I would be only too pleased if the Riddick Universe were turned into a pen and paper RPG. You could argue that's been done already with Warhammer 40K and Dark Heresy or Rogue Trader, but that is a blinkered and short-sighted way to look at the Riddick 'Verse.
There is so much more potential there for pen and paper games, all it requires is the right RPG publisher and I for one can think of a few, Cubicle 7 comes to mind since they have already proven they are capable of handling Doctor Who and now they are sinking their experience into Lord of the Rings.
The bottom line with all of this is that to remain on top, to provide the consumer with what they want and to extend the life of their chosen franchise, the publisher, the movie maker, the stars have to start thinking of the smaller picture which is part of the bigger picture. Nobody scoffs now when a roleplaying game helps push a movie towards a bigger intake or brings in a whole new selection of fans. Anyone who does scoff is out of a job.
It's a great feeling when you're part of something this big, even when you've contributed only small parts to it like me. Yet if I can see the potential of something like this, hopefully the right people in the right places will spot it as well and start to think along the same lines. I could be talking to the wilderness for all I know, but I'm happy if a couple of people get some food for thought from this article.
I believe that the future of the entertainment industry is in external revenue, to re-iterate what I've said; it allows more direct control over the budget and puts the money firmly in the hands of the developer/film maker when the big studios don't want to take a chance on something like a film sequel. George Lucas had the right idea when he asked to keep the sales of merchandise from his Star Wars films way back when, if the toy makers and studios had of known the success from that franchise, they'd have said...no way!
Until the next time, there's a Splinter Cell Conviction Special Edition with my name on it just waiting to prove my point in April.