Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Godfather game: offer they couldn't refuse?

Electronic Arts is about to release a videogame version of that classic Mafia movie The Godfather. The obvious question: why? The obvious answer: money. EA must have paid a bomb for the rights from Paramount and it's reported the games developer sunk another 15 million US [about 8-9 million pounds] into building the game. I don't know if this figure includes marketing costs - if not, that's another million or three. Sheesh, that's a lot of large.

The original creator of The Godfather, Mario Puzo, is dead, so we've no way of knowing what he'd think about this. But the screenwriter and director of the acclaimed gangster movies is less than impressed. Francis Ford Coppola has publicly said he disapproves of the game, especially its use of violence. He turned down a chunk of change to be a consultant on the game. Al Pacino passed on doing voice work for the film, but all the other main actors contributed, even Brando before he died. The actors were paid for likeness rights and their voice work but they don't get any residuals on sales, under an agreement the Screen Actors' Guild agreed last year.

So, what about the game itself? Apparently it's got an M rating and uses the sandbox approach so popular in the Grand Theft Auto game franchise, enabling players to roam around an open world, choosing where to go and what they want to do. You play as a new character making their way in the Mafia, but you also get to interact repeatedly with the movie's story and characters. That includes famous scenes like finding the horse head in the bed, the massacre at the tollbooth and Michael's restaurant hit. [How does the horse head scene work? Do you have to carry the head around and stick it in the bed yourself? The mind boggles.]

Unsurprisingly, EA is hoping for a string of sequels, to make other crossover franchise hits like James Bond and Lord of the Rings. More games based on classic films are in the works, including Scarface and Dirty Harry. How far they get will depend in some part on how The Godfather does. The next few months should provide some interesting food for thought in the world of interactive entertainment...

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