Apps and Games by Harry Abbott

At the time of writing, two video game adaptation films are about to be released. The first being an adaptation that many people had expected, The Angry Birds Movie (2016), directed by Clay Kaytis. The app already has a large fan-base that range from children all the way up to adults who have been hooked on the app since it was first released. A film adaptation was the next sensible move. This isn’t the first time that the Angry Birds franchise has been involved with films the bird centered Rio (2011) teamed up with Rovio (developers of the game) to create Angry Birds: Rio (2011). In recent years they have also created Angry Birds: Star Wars (2012) in which the player controls various bird styled iterations of classic Star Wars characters. However, the surprise comes in the form of the second game adaptation film to be released this summer, Ratchet and Clank (2016). Originally released in 2002 and developed by Insomniac Games, Ratchet and Clank had an almost cult following when it was first released, praised for its witty humour and fun gameplay. Conceptually, the humour from the game could translate well into a film and also offer mass appeal to multiple generations. The renewed interest in the franchise also gave the developers an opportunity to rerelease the original game on the latest consoles including portions of the original game paired with CGI cut-scenes inspired by the film. Essentially this means that Ratchet and Clank started as a video game, was turned into a film and then turned into a video game. With the aforementioned adaptations arriving imminently, we are faced with a question, are apps and video games having a noteworthy effect on modern cinema?


Video game tie-ins saw a noticeable boom in production[1] with the release of Tron (1982). Tie-ins originated in arcades before the wide release of games consoles used in households in which Tron had pronounced links to the video game centered film. According to Box Office Mojo, Tron earned $33 Million and ranked 22nd most successful film in 1982[2]. However, even with a perfect mix of a summer release and a tie in video game hitting arcades where most kids and teens would spend their time, the film only managed to double its budget and was considered to be another box office flop[3].


However, E.T (1982), released in the same year as Tron, is widely accepted as having the worst video game adaptation of a film ever released, with the majority of the copies ending up in a New Mexico landfill[4] yet statistically it is the most successful movie of 1982[5] and is often more fondly remembered over Tron. This poses the question of the importance of video game tie-ins when it comes to films. Are they really a deciding factor of the success of a film? The answer to this question is rather ambiguous as the quality of video game tie ins are changing quite frequently but using current examples, no it does not negatively affect a film but it can have a positive effect, increasing a films takings. The Harry Potter series (2001-2011) had varying success of video game tie-ins with the first two games based on the corresponding movies, having the most critical success. According to Susan Gunelius, author of ‘Harry Potter- The Story of a Global Business Phenomenon’, “each video game has sold millions”[6] Now in no way does this mean that the series would not have been the success it was without the game adaptations, but it did contribute to the overall success of the Harry Potter franchise, undoubtedly having a positive affect on ticket sales. The Lego spin off titles, which were broken up into two separate games (Years 1-4/5-7), are arguably more successful however they do have the power of Lego behind them and is not as faithful to the films so they won’t be considered as tie-ins in this situation.


In recent years, apps have been started to be integrated into the wider cinema experience. Apps like CineMe[7] actively connect your phone to what is happening on the screen during specific pre-roll adverts. These can range from quick quizzes in which the viewers phone can be used to answer the given question to using your phone as a controller for small mini-games that appear on the screen. This app introduces something strange and alien into the cinema, which is the accepted use of mobile devices, something that has been shunned since the technology’s introduction. The app also allows users to scan movie posters they see to quickly view the trailer for the corresponding film. This opens up a lot more opportunity for marketing as it allows companies to, in effect, add trailers to anywhere you can find a poster. This move towards a more technologically integrated cinema experience is something that many people object to. This was made apparent in the recent backlash faced by AMC cinema’s after they announced that they would allow people to text in some of their screenings. The aforementioned backlash led to the withdrawal of the announcement and an apology being issued on their official twitter page.


It is becoming more apparent that apps and gaming should be taken seriously as they have a more and more significant effect on how we experience cinema and films as a whole. Although the influence of video games has depreciated since its proliferation in the late 90’s and early 2000s, the era of the app is still very much under way. Mobile games and apps that offer more interaction in the cinema seem to be appearing more and more often despite the backlash that has arisen in recent events. I feel that apps will continue to grow in popularity but will do so outside of the cinema and will be created in the form of mobile games. The release of The Angry Birds Movie and Ratchet and Clank, in my opinion, will open the door to more gaming based adaptations.

[1] Polygon/Alexia Ray Corriea. 2014. E.T. wasn’t the worst, or the first video game based on a movie. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 28 April 2016].

[2] Box Office Mojo. 2016. Box Office Mojo. [ONLINE] Available at [Accessed 28 April 2016].

[3] The Guardian/James Russell. 2010. Will Tron: Legacy make Disney a long-game winner?. [ONLINE] Available at [Accessed 29 April 2016]

[4] The Guardian/Alex Godfrey. 2015. ‘A golden shining moment’: the true story behind Atari’s ET, the worst video game ever. [ONLINE] Available at [Accessed 28 April 2016]

[5] Box Office Mojo. 2016. Box Office Mojo. [ONLINE] Available at [Accessed 29 April 2016]

[6] Gunelius. S, 2008. Harry Potter: The Story of a Global Business Phenomenon. 1st Ed. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.

[7] CINEME. 2015 CINEME. [ONLINE] Available at [Accessed at 29 April 2016]


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