Actor Vin Diesel is a Hollywood anomaly. The gruff, bald-headed dude not only has legitimate geek interests (he plays D&D!) he's also actually interested in the video game adaptations of the movies he stars in. Diesel cares enough about games to have started his own game studio, Tigon Studios.
According to an interview with Tigon head Ian Stevens, Diesel started Tigon in order to ensure he had some hand in the video game adaptation of The Chronicles of Riddick. "He didn't want to just show up to do voice-overs and character likeness approvals, and limit his involvement to what's typically the scope of actors working in games," Stevens said. "So he started the company and managed to wrangle some control in Escape From Butcher Bay's story, he brought in some script-writers to try and give himself a more meaningful role in that process."
So if you've ever wondered why The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay is one of the best movie tie-in games in a long time, it's at least partially because Vin Diesel is awesome. If you're wondering why not many people actually played Butcher Bay, the answer is a little more complicated.
According to Stevens, the buzz on Butcher Bay was all but non-existent before launch:
"Up until we started getting review scores, the feeling we had from most people was an incredible lack of interest. Seriously. It was a movie game, it was a developer that people hadn't really heard of, it was some actor that people weren't really sure they liked, and it was a publisher that didn't have a reputation for quality. Nobody really gave a sh*t."
The public not giving an asterisk is one thing, but when your the marketing department doesn't care about your game, all bets are basically off, no matter how good it is. Stevens says Vivendi's marketing for Butcher Bay may have been weak because retailers' metrics predicted the game wouldn't sell well, so Marketing wasn't willing to risk as much on pushing it, which in turn drove down sales, and in a sense created a self-fulfilling prophesy. Here's Stevens again:
"We were in an ecosystem that was struggling with this issue. What would have been better for us is if somebody had just decided to take the risk, the view that in order to make money they needed to market the game. Riddick was not heavily marketed, at all."
It's really a drag when hard-work and quality aren't rewarded in game development, especially if it's a movie tie-in. Maybe a movie game with good sales and good reviews would raise the bar for that whole oft-terrible segment of the game market. What do you think? Do you ever play movie games? Does it have more to do with how you feel about the movie, or do you wait until you hear whether a tie-in game is any good before you go out and buy/rent it?