Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blizzard Finds Method to Create Profitable Commercial: Sam Raimi to Direct "World of Warcraft" Film

A couple of years ago movie going audiences started seeing advertisements for Blizzard Entertainment designed video games. First came the advertisements for Warcraft III, then came the advertisements for World of Warcraft. The advertisements were exciting, entertaining, and conveyed an accurate depiction of what consumers could expect from the video game products.

The advertisements also worked. Warcraft III sold 1 million copies in its first month of release. Given that Blizzard shipped 4.4 million copies upon release in order to meet demand and that Warcraft III related products are still on top 20 sales lists for PC games, we can guess that Warcraft III has sold in excess of 4 million copies. Better yet, as of the end of the first quarter of 2009 World of Warcraft had subscription revenues of $314 million for the first quarter of 2009. With the World of Warcraft MMORPG, Activision-Blizzard essentially has a blockbuster movie a month in revenue with a cost of goods sold of less than $20 million per $100 million. Not a bad revenue stream.

Marketing is one effective way to increase a revenue stream, but Activision-Blizzard do an ample amount of marketing and marketing isn't free...or is it? What if Activision-Blizzard made a movie for $100 million, with an established genre director, and the movie turned a profit? What if people who watched the movie, but hadn't played World of Warcraft the game yet, became subscribers to the game? Wouldn't that be an advertisement that not only paid for itself in new subscribers, but literally paid for itself because people paid admission to watch the advertisement?


This is exactly what Activision-Blizzard announced today. In 2006, we mentioned that Legendary Pictures was interested in making a World of Warcraft movie, now Blizzard Entertainment and Legendary Pictures have signed Sam Raimi to direct a World of Warcraft motion picture. As a director and producer Sam Raimi has been involved in several successful "geek" genre ventures. From his successful Spider-Man comic book adaptations to Army of Darkness,, Hercules, Xena, and Legend of the Seeker, Raimi has demonstrated that he approaches these ventures with a "fan's eye." One can easily see how Raimi's ability to combine humor and darker elements will be a virtue for the World of Warcraft movie. According to Variety, Raimi will pick up the reins after he completes his work on Spider-Man 4.

Geek reaction to Raimi's involvement is certain to be mixed. Some fans will yawn, others will grown, still others will cheer.

Put us among those that will cheer, but with a slight tapering worry based sigh at the end of the cheer. Raimi can make a great World of Warcraft film, but only if he concentrates on making a great fantasy movie that takes place in the World of Warcraft and avoids trying to simulate playing sessions as film.

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