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Matrix Game Payments To Wachowskis Revealed 22

Thanks to an anonymous reader for pointing to a report discussing the financial terms of the deal made with the Wachowski Brothers for the Matrix games. It's rare that anyone gets to see the kind of financial terms granted to creators of big licenses like The Matrix. But divorce documents for one of the brothers, made available via The Smoking Gun, have revealed a total of 2.75 million dollars will be paid to them with regard to Atari's Enter The Matrix game (and another 2.75 million going direct to Warner Bros), plus an eventual total of 2.5 million dollars going to the Wachowskis for Ubi Soft's The Matrix Online through 2007. More proof, if needed, that games are seriously big business.
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Matrix Game Payments To Wachowskis Revealed

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  • Small Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Babbster ( 107076 ) <> on Thursday May 22, 2003 @08:19PM (#6020037) Homepage
    It's more proof, if needed, that many game companies would rather spend millions of dollars on a big-ticket license than spend that money making a truly great game.
  • by sebi ( 152185 ) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @09:39PM (#6020542)
    It's more proof, if needed, that many game companies would rather spend millions of dollars on a big-ticket license than spend that money making a truly great game.

    Your assessment is definitely correct, however the companies have a pretty good reason for doing such things: Shelling out for the license greatly increases the likelihood of making money. The Matrix game was pre-ordered 4 million times, as far as I know. Without the license nobody would have bought it. The game is okay as it shows another facet of the Matrix universe. On it's own it would be pretty weak.

    What I did not understand from reading the article was if the payments to Warner and the Wachowskis were exclusively royalties, or if they were for the work they contributed to the game. The brothers apparently wrote the story, directed the game and created quite a lot of live-action footage as well.

    Another thought: Had Ubisoft/Atari spent the same amount on marketing an original game the impact would never have been nearly as big. As it stands they can ride the Matrix hype for free. That makes it a good business decision. Still a mediocre game, but I bought and enjoyed it nonetheless.
  • by Babbster ( 107076 ) <> on Friday May 23, 2003 @02:51AM (#6021924) Homepage
    I agree that most of the licensed games end up being pretty horrible. I wonder if they maximise profits this way or if they simply don't care.

    There are three primary factors that I believe enter into the "suckiness" of most licensed games:

    1. First and foremost is the time factor. Many of the licenses are granted with a strict time limitation involved in order to maximize crossover profits with the film or television show being adapted. If the originator (the movie/TV production company) is smart, they'll try to get the license out there as early as possible to allow more development time. An example of a license that was granted early would be Activision/Treyarch with Spider-Man - not only had Treyarch already done Spider-Man in game form before but the deal was done so early that there was little concern about rushed development. This resulted in a polished game and will probably work again for next year's Spider-Man movie and game.

    2. Money. Depending on the agreement, video game companies can be looking at making relatively little profit on a game (usually because of high royalties guaranteed to the owner of the property) and so will devote fewer resources to it than they might to an original game where they will garner all the profit. This usually shows up when you get a licensed game home and it turns out that the levels are all almost identical, there are fewer character animations, software bugs, sloppy bland textures, etc. In these cases, the company is indeed simply turning out a game they probably know is substandard just to make a quick buck from cross promotion and name recognition.

    3. Sometimes it's just the wrong people that get hold of a license. It might be that the company assigns a property to their weakest development team because they have nothing else on the horizon, they might misread the skills of the team (like having a group that specializes in strategy games try to turn out their first third-person brawler), the prospective lead designer decides to bail on the company after the deal is done, etc.

    Of course, #3 is applicable to all kinds of games - not just licensed properties.

    In short, yes, to some extent companies DO grab properties just to make a quick buck but sometimes other problems can crop up to make the job that much harder. I personally consider problem #1 to be the worst of the lot since we've all seen what can happen if a company tries to rush a game out the door.

    Making any kind of game in this age of extremely high expectations and "instant Internet karma" is a risky prospect. The complications of having to deal with outside influences in the case of licensed properties just make it that much more difficult.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"