So, I've been musing a lot more on the topic of my last blog post: The lack of pushing narrative boundaries in games, and the more I think about it, the more I realize it reflects my general lack of satisfaction with most venues of the entertainment industry.
Seth Godin, in his blog, talks a lot about how the traditional ideas behind marketing don't work anymore. Spam, junk mail, and the like have become so intrusive, and privacy has become so scarce that in order to effectively market to someone, you must have their permission. (He even coined the phrase “Permission Marketing”) Likewise, he talks a lot about the benefits of having a product, service, or some other identifying characteristic that is worth talking about.
I know, of course, that railing against Hollywood and the derivative nature of most films isn't worth your time, but I'm starting to think that the entire system is broken.
Movies are expensive. They need to gross about three times as much as they cost to make in order to be a good investment. If I'm going to sink over a hundred million dollars into a movie (not in any way unreasonable), unless it grosses at least three hundred million dollars, I'm losing money. If it grosses only one hundred million, I've lost two hundred million dollars. It's hard to imagine a studio surviving that, and even if they did, anyone and everyone involved with the decision is going to get the axe.
Add in to this fact that I could pay 10 dollars for a movie ticket, another 10-15 for dinner, double that plus a babysitter if I'm a couple with kids, and I'm paying $60 to see a movie (and that assumes 10 for the ticket, which we all know is pretty generous). If I want to see “Up in the Air”, am I going to pay $60? Or am I going to wait 6 months, and get it from my netflix account for virtually free?
The best possible motivation for actually going to a movie theater is when it provides something you won't be able to get at home: spectacle. And with the advent of 3d TVs, that's under fire too. (This is not to say that movies in 3d are the only kind of spectacle, but for the moment, it's an easily identified one)
But all of this leads to a system in which studios need to be constantly trolling for the next huge smash hit, to pay for all of the movies they make that aren't smash hits. If you're constantly looking for the next big thing, and know that a wrong decision could cost you your job at the drop of a hat, which movie are you going to make? Something that's weird and new and edgy? Or something with an established IP that you know is going to bring in a decent number of people?
To some degree, I know that this is the way that it must work. Indie projects (be they games, music, movies, or any other kind of entertainment) are indie because they enjoy such a small market share. With money comes responsibility, and responsibility changes people. But I can't help but look at what's coming out recently, and go “Really? This is the most original stuff that Hollywood has to offer?”
Simply put, I think a crash is coming, and I, for one, welcome it. Just like Seth Godin proposes that the current paradigm of marketing (yes, I just legitimate used the word paradigm, pardon me while I punch myself in the face) is dying, I wholeheartedly embrace the (hopefully) coming breakdown and rebuild in the way movies are made and distributed. Hopefully whatever rises from the ashes is something that rewards creativity more than our current system.
Now if only we could push the game industry to the same place...