Under the direction of Jason Hall, ex-CEO of Monolith, the game licensing group of Warner Bros. is rolling out a new plan to insure the quality of games that are based on their movie properties. In short, the plan will penalize publishers for making licensed games that score under 70 percent on various sites that publicly rank games, such as GameRankings.com. The penalty will be an increased licensing fee. This tactic, hopes Warner's Hall, will give a strong incentive to publisher to make better games, otherwise face a higher licensing fee.
While I love the end-goal of making better licensed-based games (who wouldn't!), I do not think this plan has a chance...
o This plan cannot overcome the fact that most movie (or television) licenses -- 99.9% of them -- do not have the genetic material necessary to become good games. So, even with razor sharp incentives inches behind a publisher's back, it's just not possible to make a compelling video games from a movie license -- with exceedingly rare exceptions. With all the media product that spills from Hollywood each year, not including kid oriented product, I'm guessing 5,000+ original productions (not including each episode of a TV series), maybe one to three per year have potential in the video game world. And often none.
Turning to Hollywood is a folly.
o It's dangerous to let reviewers know that they have potential power in the contractual license-fee equation. Rather than use aggregate sites like GameRankings.com, it'd be smarter to select two dozen or so well respected review sources worldwide, and not reveal who these sources are. I can see publishers being very leery of signing any licensing deal that puts their fate in the hands of reviewers who know that they are playing a part in how the publisher itself gets paid.
o Third-party developers working on a Warner license should be concerned that their publishers will merely pass the pain along to them. So, if the game's ratings don't reach 70 percent, then the developer, not the publisher, takes a revenue hit. If this happens, then Warner's plan has no sting.
o A better way for Warner to spin this deal is to allow publishers to earn a better licensing rate for high review scores (rather than penalize them for low scores). For example, scores above 80% result in a reduced licensing fee for the publisher, since value is being added to the overall brand. Scores above 90% get a better break still for the publisher. The idea is simple: Reward for doing good, rather than punish for doing bad.
o Finally, what if the game industry turned Warner's plan against the movie industry? For example, what if Eidos could penalize Paramount Pictures for making a Tomb Raider movie that wasn't "fresh" according to Rotten Tomatoes? Anyone think that a major studio would ever sign such a deal?
Nope. Neither do I.
In the end, I don't see Warner's plan lasting long. Or am I wrong?