ByRachelle Riddle, writer at
Writer by day, gamer by night. Everything's a story.
Rachelle Riddle

is Rachelle Riddle's weekly Explainer column about what's going on beneath the surface of the world of gaming.

Previously I wrote about video game movies and why they don't do well. It's hard to adapt a game's story and play to a different medium, and different audiences desire opposing things. But what about the opposite? How do video games based off of movies do? Turns out they're a little more varied.

There's More Creative Control

'The Lord of the Rings Online'
'The Lord of the Rings Online'

When you're adapting a video game to a movie, you're often trying to fit a huge story into a two-hour timeframe. Going the opposite way, from movie to video game, often expands the world instead of cutting it down. It allows the games to explore the world in more detail than the movie would allow.

The Lord of the Rings Online and the Middle-Earth games have seen quite a bit of this, especially with the recent games. The movies were clearly following the set of books of the same name. While they adapted the franchise directly to a movie trilogy, the video game instead went into other areas of the story, rather than just rehashing the same story and following the events as they happen on-screen.

'Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor' featuring a familiar character
'Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor' featuring a familiar character

There is a gap of time between the events of the book that gave the video game designers creativity in explaining what might have happened. The latest games, Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War, have deviated from the canonical lore, enough that Tolkien is probably rolling in his grave, but they are able to keep exploring a story different from the rest of the franchise and entertaining players as well.

Sometimes It's Just A Cash Grab

'LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4'
'LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4'

Cash-grabs are there for a reason: they're expected to do well based off the franchise's existing popularity. When going from movie to video game, you already have the story and just have to add the gameplay. Players aren't looking for a complex story out of the game when there already exists one in the movie it was modeled after. The gameplay offers a different method of consuming it. Whereas going the opposite way, from video game to movie, removes the gameplay that may have made the game interesting — and its only pull now is the story.

Spider-Man and the Harry Potter video games are good examples of this. They were already huge franchises before the movies, with coming from decades of comics and a popular literary series. The movies made them an even bigger hit and, by the time they came to consoles, very little was expected. We know the overall story and there isn't too much to add They can re-tell the same story, providing enough action through gameplay, and players are satisfied.

Finances Play A Big Deal Too

The newest, yet unnamed, Spider-Man video game.
The newest, yet unnamed, Spider-Man video game.

When a movie is made into a video game, it's almost as if there are fewer expectations, especially if it's just a generic action game. Fans already know the story and the world from the movie, so it's the gameplay that's the most riveting. In this, the publishers don't really have to worry about much.

Movies may be more "popular," from an overall standpoint, but they're also more risky. It's expensive to make a Hollywood blockbuster, but less so to make a video game. Since the game's fans aren't enough to support the box office, the movies also need to pull in the general population. Unfortunately, trying to please both bases often alienates most.

Video games, on the other hand, don't have to worry about pleasing varied audiences. They don't need to draw in the franchise's entire fanbase; they just need to attract the gamers.

Do you prefer video games made from movies or movies made from video games? Let us know!


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