In just over a week the most anticipated game release of the year will take place, Grand Theft Auto IV. If you haven’t heard of the Grand Theft Auto series then you haven’t been paying any attention over the last several years. Even if you aren’t inclined to play video games, this series has been making waves in the mainstream news – there’s been a strong of lawsuits ranging from hidden sexual content in it, to it being blamed for children committing acts of violence. Love it or hate it, its release is going to have a major impact across several markets. It’s currently estimated that in the first week alone its release will generate over $400 million dollars. This is the same amount of money generated by the opening of blockbuster motion pictures. In fact, some people are already saying the movie industry needs to watch out.
Over the past couple of years the television industry has had to contend with major game releases. In one of the hardest to reach demographics (18 – 24 year old males) there are noticeable downturns in viewership during the release of hotly anticipated video games. People are speculating that with the release of Grand Theft Auto IV this might affect the start of the movie industry’s big summer release push. People who would be going to the theaters may now be staying home playing a game that offers hundreds of hours of content. This could translate in to less than stellar returns on high budget summer films. With the growing trend in the popularity of video games, and the down turn in the economy causing people to take a hard look at their expenses, the movie industry is going to have to face the fact they need to find a way to contend with this.
Personally I feel the way to bring people in the theaters isn’t through gimmicks, or special offers, or product tie ins. The way to get asses in seats is to actually make movies people want to see! This summer is already packed with sequels, spin-offs, and remakes of past classics. A look in to the future shows more of the same from Hollywood. While the video game industry is continually evolving and seeking to offer fresh content (even when sequeling a popular video game they manage to add so many new dimensions to it that its more than a fresh coat of paint, its a complete rebuild of the game from the ground up) the movie industry is serving us the entertainment equivalent of cold left-overs. It’s been rare for a movie to come along lately that I have felt compeled to go see in the theater. Even the things that show some promise generally have me waiting until I can NetFlix them. There have been some rare gems that make me want to actually pack myself in to a theater to see the film, but for the most part the movie industry has failed to inspire me (and this is saying something coming from someone with low movie standards who was averaging watching two movies in the theater a week for awhile). I don’t feel I’m alone in this. Other of my movie inclined friends have been seeing less and less in the theater. However almost all of them have been spending time playing new video games, or online ones such as World of Warcraft.
Really, I do love movies. But it’s going to take a lot more than the current crop of Hollywood offerings to break me free from my movie going apathy. And yes, on April 29th I’ll be one of the throngs of people sitting in front of my XBox 360 enjoying the computer generated mayhem of Grand Theft Auto IV.