Copyright 2001 Source:

[ June 21st 2001 ]

Mainstream media have primarily focused on Paramount Pictures Lara Croft Tomb Raider motion picture to deliver the concept of Lara Croft and her globe trotting adventures to a public very much unaware of it's video-game ancestry. Robert Philpot investigates the video game - motion picture relationship and discovers that box-office receipts weighed against video-game sales figures are remarkably similar:

Lara Croft is an exception, a star who has helped draw attention to an often neglected area of pop culture. When movie critics judge the qualities of the Tomb Raider movie, many of them will be encountering Croft for the first time. Some of their newspapers, magazines or TV shows ignored her until Angelina Jolie's name was attached to the movie. Even now, coverage of the movie is likely to focus on Jolie, or on how movies inspired by video games seldom work. Little of it is likely to focus on the video-game industry itself, which doesn't get the attention that movies or TV attract. Which doesn't sound too surprising until you learn that, by some estimates, the video-game industry generated more revenue in 2000 than the movie industry.

"A lot of people say that,'' says Doug Lowenstein, president of the Interactive Digital Software Association. "And a lot of people in our industry say it. It's not accurate, though.'' Lowenstein says that the video-game industry generated $6 billion in software sales in 2000. The motion-picture industry earned $7.3 billion at the box office. But if hardware sales -- from game systems and computers -- are figured in, then the video-game industry is on a par with the movie industry. Lowenstein says it won't be long, though, before such qualifiers become unnecessary. "Certainly if we hit the projections that analysts are forecasting for the industry, we'll leave the motion picture box-office number way behind over the next four or five years.

"Analysts are talking about the industry hitting $16 billion in sales by 2004. There's no way [that] the movie industry is growing, that the box office is growing anywhere near that rate. They sort of blip up a few percent a year, mostly because they raise box-office prices.'' But he and others in the video-game industry believe that gaming isn't getting the coverage it deserves. "It was always very much a hobby business, and it was run like one,'' says Doug Baldwin, vice president of marketing for Eidos Interactive, which produces the Tomb Raider games, "and now, you have professionals, first and foremost businessmen, running companies or running development studios, who may have come from . . . other backgrounds -- consulting, perhaps, MBAs. It's another example of how the industry has become much more mature.'' Baldwin has high hopes for the Tomb Raider movie and also for Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, a computer-animated movie that is due out in July and that is based on another popular video-game series. Not only does he think these movies will work better than video-game-based movies of the past, like 1993's Super Mario Bros., he also hopes they'll help bring more attention to the gaming industry.

"Tomb Raider is basically a combination of Indiana Jones and James Bond with new wrinkles,'' Baldwin says. "It's something that translates very well to the big screen. . . . With Lara Croft in Tomb Raider and with Final Fantasy, you're on these fantastic adventures with characters that have deep, deep bios, with scripts that are very deep and nonlinear.'' Baldwin says other indications of growth are that Tomb Raider attracted an Oscar-winning actress, and that the Final Fantasy movie -- the most photo-realistic animated movie to date -- is directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, who created the video game.

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