Let's dig into how that applies to MMOs. There has been discussion of a World of Warcraft movie for some time ... what about the rest of them? Read on to explore the connection between Hollywood and Norrath.
Any movie with a younger fan base has made a pretty penny selling licensing rights to game publishers. This includes the flood of superhero and young wizard movies that we have seen recently. Most of the time these games are set in the action adventure genre, but a couple have been made into MMOs. Lord of Rings Online is probably the most popular and benefitted greatly from the success of the movies. Even though Tolkien is often described as the father of fantasy literature, his books are not exactly light reading. He wrote most of them during World War II and Turbine would have had a hard time making them relatable to modern gamers without the movies.
The movie trilogy translated the books into a visual format and really set the stage for Turbine to turn it into a beautiful looking game. The landscapes in Lord of the Rings Online are very impressive and seem to come straight from scenes in the film. I don't know if I would have been as impressed if the artists were working only from the literature. When reading a book it seems that, everyone forms his or her own idea of what things should look like. The fact that the movies were well received and seen by almost everyone gave the MMO a common ground with gamers. I am almost one hundred percent certain that the game would not have done so well if the film had not been made or been a box office bomb.
You only have to look at the success of the Matrix Online to see how things could have turned out. While all of the films in the Matrix Trilogy did well at the box office, the last one wasn't well received by audiences. Many people think this might have had an impact on the success of the MMO. It just goes to show you that it's not the best idea in the world to turn an ongoing movie franchise into a MMO. The risk of a box office bomb influencing gamers to avoid your MMO is just too great. After all, the Matrix Online wasn't the first sci-fi MMO that ran into this problem.
It's rather hit or miss to design a MMO around a popular movie franchise. The past has shown us that the film has to be a financial success and garner critical acclaim for the MMO to even have a chance. It almost seems not worth the effort to buy a license for a MMO. That may be why a couple of studios are thinking about making a movie based on their games, instead of the other way around. After all video games are slightly different then MMOs, which usually depend on subscriptions. Most video games based on movies are trying to trick consumers into thinking their game is just as good as the movie. Doing it the other way around and the movie becomes more a reflection of the game. In other words, the movie becomes the ultimate form of advertisement.
Still movies are not cheap to make and only a few MMO studios have a chance of pulling one off. Blizzard has long had a deal with Legendary Pictures to make World of Warcraft into a film. Unfortunately, they are having problems finding a writer and it seems Blizzard will take just as long to make a movie as they do to make a game. There are also rumors of Sony eventually making a film based on EverQuest. This project seems even more nebulous then the World of Warcraft movie though. It must be an uphill battle for the studios especially considering the history of video game adaptations for the silver screen. Still even a half way decent movie about a MMO would have a huge impact on subscription numbers. Of course, I am almost afraid what would happen to World of Warcraft if their movie turned into a blockbuster.