Would you buy a videogame just because a big-name director worked on it?

Zacksnyder_l_2We now know at least a few of the projects that Zack Snyder (pictured)will tackle once he’s completed work on a modest little film called Watchmen:  According to a story in Variety, the director has signed a deal to develop three videogames for Electronic Arts (with an eye on turning some of those titles into film projects). Steven Spielberg, of course, also has a three-game deal with EA: His first effort — Boom Blox, for the Wii — was released last spring to generally favorable reviews. The ever-growing list of Hollywood vets who have worked on videogames now includes: John Woo (Stranglehold), Peter Jackson (a long-in-development title based on the Halo universe), and James Cameron (the game version of his upcoming Avatar).  Big-name directors really don’t get much bigger-name than this — and it certainly says something about the strength of the game industry that it can attract talents of such talent and stature.

But just how much can someone like a Snyder or a Cameron bring to the game-playing experience? There were parts of Stranglehold that were like scenes right out of Hardboiled — but, really, couldn’t the same be said of many recent action-shooters whose developers were undoubtedly influenced by Woo’s masterful bullet ballet? And it’s apparent that their names alone can move product: Boom Blox carried Spielberg’s name on the box cover, but the game enjoyed only modest sales. (That said, there are many reasons to explain why Blox wasn’t a huge hit — the real test will come in his next effort.) Already, a good number of new games refelect a more "cinematic" look and feel: heads-up displays, for example, will be missing from some A-list holiday titles. It will be interesting to see if these gentlemen can bring something to new to gaming (whose business model and structure, in turn, is becoming more Hollywood). What kind of changes do you think we can expect from these guys? Would you buy a game on the basis of their names alone? And which of these will ultimately have the most success in this industry?

Comments (9 total) Add your comment
  • StaleCake

    I don’t get your doubtfulness over Snyder. After Dawn of the Dead, 300, and Watchmen, he’s one of the few directors that CAN bring a fanbase to the game — a fanbase in the exact perfect demographic.

  • Auriana

    No, a big name director would not influence whether or not I buy a game. If the game is something I’d like to play and find interesting, then I’ll get it regardless of whether or not there’s a big name director. I love Peter Jackson but I don’t have much interest in Halo so I’ll steer clear. At the same time, I’m usually curious to see what they come up with. If any decide to make an RPG, then I’d probably be in line.

  • Matt

    People buy games based on the names associated with it all the time. Not necessarily who directed it, but the name of the game itself. Madden is bought solely because it was a good game for the past 10 years, it must be good now. Same with certain RPGs (Final Fantasy comes to mind, though declaring which one(s) isn’t any good can get you into fights).
    I don’t believe any gamer would buy a game because a movie director is involved with the project. If a big name gaming producer is involved with it as well (Shinji Hasimoto or Sam Houser), gamers may take mention and buy the game out of curiosity (and have major expectations as well).

  • t3hdow

    Matt’s on point about name recognition’s effect on the videogame industry. With sequels, videogame franchises work, dare I say better than its film counterparts, since you’ll rile up any gamer with another iteration of Madden, Halo, Final Fantasy or Guitar Hero. Same with company names. Any hot project from Blizzard, Nintendo, Capcom or SquareEnix will garner huge attention compared to independent titles.
    From my experience, having big name movie directors attached to a game usually doesn’t bat an eyelash for video gamers. Cinematic experiences may be nice and all (hell, the later Final Fantasies and Metal Gear Solid games integrate FMV very well), but at the end of the day, if it doesn’t help the game itself, you might as well focus the effort on issues that matter, like the basic gameplay mechanics. Having big name video game producers attached to projects (i.e. Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideo Kojima, Will Wright, Lorne Lanning), on the other hand, will garner bigger interest.

  • Rob Grizzly

    It’s my understanding that they hope to turn Zack Snyder’s games into movies sometime in the future. Kind of like how people are now writing comics solely for the hopes of selling the movie rights.
    The whole idea is to create their own built-in fanbase from scratch. It’s an annoying notion, because there’s something artificial about that. Does Snyder or Cameron or Jackson know anything about making videogames? Not really. But as earlier posters have said, their names do sell. (The only reason I rented Stanglehold was because John Woo was involved).
    I think we always hope or expect a game of higher quality when big-name directors are attached. Sometimes it works (Metal of Honor- Spielberg) sometimes it doesn’t.
    As far as Snyder goes, I love both Dawn of the Dead and 300. But he didn’t create those. Nor did he Watchmen. Sure, he can adapt the hell out of something, but how good is he with coming up with original material?

  • Auriana

    In addition to what I posted below, I will admit that while I won’t buy a game because a big named director is attached to it, I am one of those rabid fangirls who will buy games off of a certain series or studio. I’ll buy pretty much any Final Fantasy game (though lack of money has forced me to skip Ring of Fates and Chocobo Dungeon), anything by Nippon Ichi/NIS, any game with Zelda in the title and anything from Gust (Atelier series, Mana Khemia, Ar Tonelico). I also have a soft spot for other Square Enix and Atlus rpgs.
    Again, I think it all depends on the gamer and what they’re interested in. If it’s not a big name director influencing a buying decision, it’s the studio or series.

  • M

    A video game project from either Jackson or Cameron could be interesting. Given both men’s love for cutting-edge technology, I feel they would be more involved in their games’ conceptions. Boom Blox was fun and sold almost half-a-million copies (is that “modest”? Really?), but it didn’t feel remotely Spielbergian. But like with every game, I purchased Boom Blox because it looked like a quality game, and not because so-and-so is attached to it.

  • litrocl


  • LSIsaiah

    Asian Handicap
    Asian handicap or disability is a value assigned to a team / player at the expense of others. Let’s say we have a match between two teams, X and Y and X team is weaker than Y, and bringing it on par would be a handicap of two goals (ie, if X starts the game with two goals at the end of the match the two teams would be tied Ermine village). This eliminates the opportunity to bet on a draw. If team X has the handicap of two and the match ends in a 1 goal difference in favor of Y, then X team won. If Y fails to beat a difference of two goals, then the bet is returned (bet there is no winner or loser)
    Number of goals (over / under, total number of goals as the half with most goals, odd / even)

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