The Tombstone Quandary

There is a quandary around movies that I noticed in the 90’s where movie studios are afraid to be left behind in the market. When one was making a movie about, say, Tombstone  the other major one would follow-up eerily close with Wyatt Earp. Big studio coming out with a disaster movie about Volcanos? Better not be left behind! I often wondered if this was a product of individuals afraid of losing their jobs (I hear X studio is doing this, and if we don’t and it does well, my job may be at stake) or more of a big wig ego thing – who could outdo one another in the same area. Regardless of why it happened(s) a lot the movie Tombstone  always comes to mind to me because I *loved* Tombstone but disliked its clone, Wyatt Earp. In fact, while researching this thought I found a whole Wikipedia page dedicated, by decade, to instances of this happening. And the list is monstrous!. Funny enough in many cases one is a complete flop while the other is successful and it’s always a curiosity on to who had the original idea and who is just trying to keep up with the Joneses. The movie making Joneses. Either way, it’s an interesting phenomenon to me.

Thankfully I don’t see the same trend in games and game making. Sure, some will emulate successful titles but in movies both race to release and compete at the same time – whereas in gaming it seems as though devs wait to see how a game does and then how to differentiate – it’s much more open with a lot less guessing but a lot of time passes by between releases.

I bring all of this up because with great interest I have started following “The Division” which has the basis for an amazing story (remember that basis?) and the third person shooter elements seem like it could be a big hit. Tom Clancy games are traditionally well done. And then, suddenly, I started reading scary things such as articles about Division trying to be like Destiny, the “Always playing, always improving”. Grinding out epic loot tiers on.. sub machine guns in a modern setting? Getting a -5 to recoil and such and at this thought process, I realize, they are probably doing it wrong.

Sure, I get it – they want Destiny sales numbers but don’t really know for sure why that is. I’m worried if they focus on the parts of Destiny that pushes people away and think that is the money-maker, they’ll make a dud. The last thing I would want as an upcoming game is a direct comparison to ANY title out there. Oh, it is just like Destiny. It’s just like World of Warcraft! It’s just like… doomed to fail because it’s like something else but won’t be exactly the same. In my humble opinion if you just build an amazing story with your other elements you will get longevity. Don’t just build a loot treadmill. These new FPS MMOs seem to be taking the worst parts of MMOs and applying it to the FPS genre. Take the best parts instead, or at bare minimum, as well.


3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. The key to ticket and DVD sales is buzz. If you can generate awareness and word of mouth recommendations, you’ve made your money. If one studio can put out a film on the coat tails of another, they can share in some of the buzz that the other has worked so hard to generate.

    Studio A probably wouldn’t develop a wild west film on their own; too risky. But if Studio B has already done the heavy lifting and is beginning to have some favorable advanced press, Studio A can pull in Costner and Hackman and put together something halfway decent.

    If the movie is lousy, it doesn’t matter since it usually cost pennies to make. And if the movie is good, the two released at the same time can develop a synergy that ends up helping both of them. Instead of competing, they can boost each other’s sales. Rather than choosing one over the other, movie-goers that are in the mood for a Western are likely to see both.

    And remember that movies cost far less to produce then the studios actually report, in order to save on profit sharing clauses with authors and actors. That movie that the studio reported lost tens of millions, instead probably earned a respectable profit and at the same time kept actors and directors on contract productive.

    1. That’s a fair and interesting explanation – I assumed some of those points. I mostly subscribe to the Seth Godin thinking when it comes to art – if you are doing it just for profit, it won’t work. Put the art out there for the art, and it will get recognized. Of course, games and movies are clearly businesses first now instead of art, but they have elements of art that counteract that core belief of mine.

  2. 🙂 in regards to the movies (and I agree totally in regards to tombstone vs wyatt earp). You made me recall Costner’s ‘Robin Hood’ (oh how I hate thee) and ‘Robin Hood’ with Patrick Bergen & Uma Therman.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.