Viacom’s Paramount announced to enter the sphere of video game publishing, and they want to concentrate on “casual, hand-held and mobile” because of the lower production cost compared to “proper” consoles. The latter would, it seems, remain reserved to sister company MTV, which recently entered the space with Rock Band, a title that sold a respectable 1.8m units since November 2007.
Paramount still seems to be looking around for the right models though: Sandi Isaacs, its SVP Interactive & Mobile said that they “are entering into deals now where we will be publishing games this year. There’s going to be a slate where in some cases we’re publishing, in some cases we’re co-publishing, or in others we’re funding development and another publisher buys it. It’s important for us to have a flexible model.” She also said that the studio might use external finance to fund video game development, which would be closer to business models widely applied in the film industry but which is still relatively nascent in games (although there are a select few project finance companies out there that also take on game development).
Irrespective of the relatively cloudy nature of the announcements, it is good to see that a major studio starts putting more emphasis on gaming as a way to capitalize on their IP besides (relatively speaking) shabby guarantees and advances for licensing their rights to others. For mobile, the most exciting bit may well be a co-publishing model: Paramount does not and – at least for a while – will not have the distribution footprint of many mobile publishers, so a partnership there might be mutually fruitful for both parties. Should this become a successful example, it might well help to break open the somewhat old-school business models that sometimes tend to strangle developers and publishers in the mobile space: they are required to cough up money that they would really require to put into game development, marketing, sales and promotions rather than contributing what is a relatively tiny percentage to a movie’s overall revenue. Encouraging!