GTA V had a budget of £170 million to develop and market, that’s around $256 million. Those are the kind of numbers a big Hollywood movie would rack up in the movie industry production process. It begs the question, with this kind of money going into games, are they the new face of the movie industry? With piracy and illegal downloading now such seemingly unstoppable issues for movie producers to counteract, the gaming producers are leaping ahead to reap gargantuan profits. GTA V took a record billion dollars in sales in its first 3 days. Those are figures unseen at the box office for many a long while, no matter how much money has been pumped into marketing and distribution of the latest big name blockbuster.
GTA V’s eye-popping initial sales were the fastest ANY entertainment property ever, in whatever medium, has ever hit a billion.
The math is pretty easy here. Sure, it was a hefty budget for a video game, but boy, did it pay off. GTA V’s publisher, Take Two Interactive, was not going to be unhappy with that return on its investment. Particularly as its share price has already doubled in the last year.
Rockstar, ironically named in a way, do not have to fork out multi million dollars amounts for their lead (high-maintenance) players to come and film on set with them for 6 or 8 weeks. They just invent them. They don’t have to hire winnebagos, catering trucks, enormous crews of people from Directors down to Best Boys and pay them all. They don’t have to build scenery, or go on location. Rockstar, still based in Scotland where they began, employ a mere 300 staff. That’s all. Look at the credits roll at the end of any motion picture that has ever been shown, even the flops, and the numbers will far exceed this.
The fact is, alternate reality is far lot cheaper to recreate in gaming than in the movies. In many ways, their end product has the same aims. They want consumers of the product to be allowed to escape, in the words of Aaron Garbut, GTA V’s series art director, to ”create a world that you can lose yourself in.” The California of GTA V is as idealized as anything cooked up by the original Dream Factory.
Some might say,with justification, that the new factory for dreams is based in Greenhill, Edinburgh, where Rockstar have their offices. From there, they are marketing an international export that has far-reaching cultural impact and is regarded as a work of creative genius. As Garbut says, it’s “one of the biggest entertainment franchises in the world.” It a small step from here to claim that games, like GTA V, are the new movie industry.
The makers have not “sold out” to achieve this pheonomena. Much in GTA V is true to its Scottish roots. The sly, uniquely Caledonian humour which has found it’s way into many hit movies made in Scotland, most recently Filth, Sunshine over Leith, and Trainspotting is here in spades. The Stock Exchange, for example, is named Bawsaq, a play on words on renowned insult “bawbags” The Forth Road Bridge is in there too. It is South California, but with a Scottish flavour.
Now let’s take a look at the movie industry and see how a recent film compares on the same kind of budget. Now, poor old Warner Brothers, have been having a long strong of notable disasters with bringing former DC comics to the big screen. They already lost money on Watchmen, Catwoman, Jonah Hex and Superman Returns. Green Lantern, earned only $219 million off a budget of £200 million plus. Not only did they lose financially, they lost reputation wise, as it was considered such a dud artistically. Warner Brothers needed to find another goose to lay the golden egg for them. The Harry Potter franchise coming to an end had left a black hole in their ideas department. They would have been hoping and praying that Man of Steel with its all-star cast; such luminaries as Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner, would pay back for them on its £225 million budget. Well, did it?
Man of Steel was released on June 14th 2013 and grossed $291, 045, 518 in its 14 weeks in the cinemas. It made another $371,800,000 internationally. Not a flop, but nowhere near the GTA V billion in a mere 3 days. Even Batman could not use his superhero powers to do that.
Thor: The Dark World has cut some corners. It went for a TV director, Alan Taylor, not a so-called “marquee name” and no major new stars. It doesn’t even have a marquee villain. As a marketing hook it could be said to be a case of “more of the same, only bigger this time” Its budget was around $200 million though. Can it possibly, with these odds, trump its predecessor, Thor, which did well worldwide, earning around $499 million. Time will tell on that one. It gets released on November 8th.
The movie industry is top heavy with production and marketing costs. Every picture it makes is by way of a gamble. Some franchises becomes recipes for repeat rewards, but this is not always true, as Pirates of the Caribbean has proven. In the twenty-first century, it is a curiously old-fashioned way to work. Can the studios survive this way? Or are super-successful games, and none more successful than GTA V, the new movie industry?
By Kate Henderson