They’re totally serious. Bloomberg reports that Rovio is planning, among other things, a feature-length animated motion picture. And in case you were hoping that there was room in that last sentence to interpret this as a rumor, allow me to pull out my steel-toed boots and stomp all over your dreams: this story is coming straight from the CEO of Rovio’s mouth:
“We are working on the mythology with the movie script and we don’t want to shape the mythology too far until we have that one nail in place,” the CEO said. “We’ve seen too many movies based on games that have not performed well.”
There is a reason for that, Mr. Hed.
Here’s the fundamental problem that exists with video game movies: the games that are best suited to being turned into movies already are movies. Half-Life. Metal Gear Solid. Portal. These are games that have great gameplay, but also have stories, cinematics, heck they’re even interactive. I love the way Valve does their cut scenes because you can still move around. You can watch the same scene from different angles, or experience it in different ways every time. In some ways, it’s better than a movie, because you’re in it.
Then there’s the ones that don’t have real in-depth stories. These games are fun because they appeal to a very basic principle of gaming: set some rules, give the player some goals, and get out of their way. Super Mario: get from one end of a level to the other without getting hit by bad guys or falling into pits. Mortal Kombat: kill him before he kills you. Angry Birds: throw birds at pigs that are protected by flimsy structures they somehow built without arms.
And therein lies the rub. The best casual games are built on simplicity. We don’t need a story. Frankly, if you skipped the (total cinematic masterpiece) intro where we see pigs sneaking off with eggs, we wouldn’t question it. Those goofy sounds, the feeling of stuff exploding, the thrill of getting three stars on a game that doesn’t provide us any real-life rewards? We love that. We crave it. We don’t care about the backstory.
That’s why video game movies fail so often. The Super Mario Bros. movie had to detach so far from the story line just to make the thing. Since 1993 wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of world-creating movie tech, traveling to the Mushroom Kingdom as we knew it would’ve been crappy at best. Plus, the cartoon-y, almost animé-ish plot wouldn’t play well to American audiences.
Mortal Kombat tried to stay true to the story. A little too true. The movie was constant fight scenes. Over. And over. aaand ooooovveerrrrrrr. Now, to be fair, I liked it. However, it’s still a mediocre rendition at best. That game even had a story, but the story was cheesy! “There’s an evil parallel dimension where people, for some reason, want to conquer ours and, for some reason, need to fight us in a tournament to do that.” Just get to the fight scenes. Which apparently bored people. Because why watch people fighting when you could be playing people fighting.
So, what’s the plan for Angry Birds? Are we going to give the birds names? Is the yellow bird gonna be the hasty, fowl-mouthed (dear writers: I hate you for your inevitable use of this pun) war-monger? Are we gonna see the bomb technician black bird who’s barely hanging on to his last shred of sanity as he plans brilliant, if insanely dangerous demolition schemes? The fearless red
ranger bird that leads them all against the evil pig army? Because I can tell you right now, if that’s where you’re going, I’ve seen it already. A hundred times before. And guess what? Your game isn’t that fun.
Besides. You already did this. The tie-in to Rio? That’s as close as you guys should get to an animated movie. That should be the highest aspiration for a casual game with virtually no plot and no need for one.
There is one bit of good news, though. The CEO also let on that the company is planning to “develop more game titles”. About friggin’ time.