Film-to-game schedules a â??big problemâ?? for developers

Film-to-game schedules a â??big problemâ?? for developers

By Rob Crossley

May 6th 2009 at 12:07PM

Approval processes for franchise-based games limit necessary development time, say Rebellion's co-founders

The planning of game and movie tie-ins remain a big problem for game developers, with the ongoing issue getting worse in recent years.

That was the verdict of UK developer Rebellion’s founding brothers Chris and Jason Kingsley.

Oxford-based group Rebellion has a history of developing games released alongside films of the same franchise. Recently the group worked on Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem and Miami Vice: The Game, both titles which saw contemporaneous releases in cinemas and game stores.

But CTO Chris Kingsley says that developers are not often given enough time to ensure quality on franchise-based games.

“The problem is it’s actually quicker to make a movie than it is to make a game these days, by quite a big margin,” he told Develop in an interview published earlier today.

“That’s always a big problem, because often you’re not given enough time to make the game. So you have to fit to the schedule that you have.”

Chris adds that, when developers are dealing with franchise licences, the time it takes to negotiate contracts is punishingly long. “What we’re seeing is that the time it takes to reach an agreement has crept up quite a lot in the last few years,” he added.

“It used to be a couple of months or so; now it usually takes much longer with budgets going up as well and more riding on the success of games. That time spent negotiating you don’t have at the end of the project, because the endpoint doesn’t move.”

Chris’s brother Jason – CEO at Rebellion – agreed that one of the biggest problems with developing movie tie-in games is the elongated waiting process involved.

“Movies, once they’re green-lit, can be on the shelves within twelve months. It’s not that difficult to do that,” he says. “That’s hardly ever going to be the same time you need to deliver a game.”

“Generally speaking, when you start talking with somebody about a title, it takes three months to get a letter of intent, and then another six months to get a contract. By that time you’re already nine months in, and really you should be submitting at that stage to Sony or Microsoft or whoever for approval.”

“It is a big problem,” he added “and there really isn’t a way of getting around it unless you are dealing with major movie groups who can schedule their releases two or three years ahead.”

Even in this case, said Jason, movie studios are prone to schedule changes because of the planning it takes to schedule in key actors.

The first part of Develop’s interview with Chris and Jason Kingsley – where the duo talk about balancing quality and studio size, Hollywood’s relationship with videogames, as well as the opportunities for young aspiring developers – can be found here.