Typically, the entertainment highlight of the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco is the Game Developer's Choice Awards – one of the video game industry's more prestigious award ceremonies.
Those will still be handed out this year, but attendees are likely to be more excited about the announcement that Indie Game – The Movie will be screened at the show on March 5 at 6pm.
In addition to showing the winner of the Best Editing award at the Sundance Film Festival, the show will host a panel with the film's featured subjects and creators following the film.
The film follows independent game developers Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes (maker of "Super Meat Boy"), Phil Fish ("Fez") and Jonathan Blow ("Braid"), showcasing the creation and release of their titles.
The film has been playing to sold out audiences in select screenings since its premier earlier this month.
It takes a lot of guts for a social game to turn its back on Facebook, but you probably would expect nothing less of a game based on the Godfather franchise.
The Godfather: Five Families has decided to bypass the largest social networking site and launch exclusively on Google+.
"As Michael Corleone said, 'It’s not personal... It’s strictly business,'" Kabam VP of marketing Ted Simon told Gamasutra. "As we were evaluating our options, Google+ games came to us and put together the most compelling marketing and merchandising package to support the expansion of The Godfather: Five Families and help drive traffic to their platform."
The game, developed by Kabam and backed by Paramount, acts as a prequel to the book and films. Set 10 years before the first film, the game will let players be a part of the rise to power of the Corleones, Straccis, Cuneos, Barzinis and Tattaglias.
The game isn't likely to stay off of Facebook forever, though. Google+ only has a 45 day window of exclusivity, at which time the studio can bring the game to other sites.
As the end of the year draws close, the inevitable year in review pieces are starting to roll out. The first, from Twitter, however, shows what the hot shows, music, movies and actors were with the Twitterati – and it holds some pretty big surprises.
While it's not exactly shocking that Charlie Sheen led the actor category, Elizabeth Taylor was the most talked about actress (and Raven Symone topped both Natalie Portman and Jennifer Lopez). And of all the shows on TV, ABC Family's "Pretty Little Liars" was the hottest topic.
YouTube sensation Rebecca Black was the year's hottest subject in music, while "Thor" was the most talked about movie. It's worth noting that the year's top four grossing pictures (year to date) – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2," "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" and "Kung Fu Panda 2" – were all absent from the list.
The video game world has never really been represented well at Robert Redford’s popular Sundance Film Festival, but that's set to change this year.
Indie Game: The Movie has been selected to screen at the event. The film will show in the festival's World Documentary category, which only approved 12 submissions this year.
The film is the work of Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky, who secured funding by winning a film pitch competition, DVD pre-orders and their own investments. The gamer community has been solidly behind the project, both morally and financially.
Rather than focusing on the eccentricities of today's players or the people making the game, Indie Game looks at developers of smaller projects, who strive not to get rich, but to create an interactive work of art.
Disney was the first studio to fully integrate iOS systems with their films, but they're no longer the only filmmaker doing so.
The Weinstein Company and Technicolor have teamed up to utilize the tech company's MediaEcho application to supplement last year's Best Picture "The King's Speech" with historical footage, additional commentary and behind the scenes information.
Like Disney's SecondScreen tool, the app syncs with the BluRay version of the film, displaying relevant content at appropriate moments of the film.
"The key benefit of MediaEcho as a second screen application is to offer consumers content that is synchronized and relevant to what they are watching on the TV screen," said Lew Rothman, executive vice president of Operations and Chief Technology Officer at The Weinstein Company.
It's a one-off right now, but the companies plan to add the free app to other films moving forward. The service only works with BD-Live enabled players and you'll need an iPad as well. iPhones and iPod Touches lack the necessary screen space to fully support the content.
Fox, too, jumped on the Second Screen movement earlier this year with its Sons of Anarchy app , only instead of using it as a place to highlight "extras," it focused on capitalization. "SOA Gear," will enable viewers of the current season and the third-season Blu-ray to purchase products that appear during episodes.
The Saturday morning serial model of the 1950s may be long dead in the film world, but a new eBook publisher is looking to bring it back in a more modern form.
Backlit is producing a string of Young Adult fiction in eBook form, recruiting Hollywood writers to pen the tales, which invariably end with a cliffhanger. It's a model that, if it works, not only guarantees a fairly predictable revenue stream, but has caught the eye of producers.
Jack Giarraputo of Happy Madison has secured a first look film and television deal with the company, which currently offers two series - Borrowing Abby Grace and The Start-Up – and has two more queued up.
Prices are kept low intentionally. Borrowing Abby Grace and The Start-Up cost $2.99 per 'episode' with a word count of 20,000-30,000 words. That's about 1/5 the size of a Twilight novel. (One upcoming series, entitled, The Dig, will charge $6.99 for a 60,000-80,000 word episode.) To ensure the material connects with its audience, Backlit has recruited Hollywood writers who have a track record of appeal to the demographic. (All authors write under pseudonyms to protect their day jobs.)
"There's kind of a renaissance in reading these days," says founder Panio Gianopoulos. "Teenagers today read more words per day than any generation before them. Of course, they're reading Facebook and Twiter and text messages, but they're not opposed to reading books."
The serial formula is no stranger to print, either, but hasn't seen a lot of success since Steven King revived it with The Green Mile.
The goal, of course, is to see these series expand to other mediums, but Gianopoulos declined to discuss whether Giarraputo has picked up any options yet. However, he said, "We think the eBook is the perfect way to create a television model for our series."
When "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation" hit theaters in 1997, it did something that parents groups and senators had failed to do: Brought the franchise to its knees.
The film was so horrendously bad that it made 1995's "Mortal Kombat," which only the most die-hard fans of the series truly embraced, look downright artistic. Production on a third sequel, sub-named "Devastation," was shelved and New Line Cinema never looked back.
But a funny thing happened as the Internet exploded. Last year, director Kevin Tancharoen ("Fame"), a big fan of the video game fighting series, had an idea to lobby Warner Bros. for a new installment in the series. Calling in favors from friends and tapping friends of friends, he began working on a live action short, which he never planned to release publicly – well, certainly not as soon as the short actually did make it online.
“I am not the most technically savvy YouTube person,” says Tancharoen. “What came out wasn’t the final product in my mind. I wasn’t done yet. It was still in its rough phase, but I couldn’t send a 2GB file over email, so my friend said I could cerate a private page on YouTube and sent it to him to review. It turns out it wasn’t that private.”
Fans and gaming outlets quickly found the video – which has since racked up over 5 million views. As it went viral, though, Tancharoen had no idea.
“I looked on Twitter and saw MK was trending and thought ‘Oh god, did someone beat me to the punch?’,” he says.
When he realized it was his film, his fears doubled: certain rights hadn’t been secured – including with his cast.
“The actors could have quickly rebelled against me,” he says. “Thank God people liked it, because it could have gone really bad.”
The buzz surrounding that YouTube short led Warner to tap Tancharoen to direct nine live-action shorts to lead up to this year's new installment of the game, which ultimately proved to be one of the most successful in the series.
Now Tancharoen is taking the franchise to cinemas – which is just what he had hoped to do when making that YouTube video.
“The bigger thing for me, of course, is I want to translate this to a feature,” he noted in a conversation earlier this year. “I would love to tell the stories that lead the character up to a certain point, then have them merge together in a big 3D movie.”
It was, in fact, Tancharoen's short films that got Hollywood thinking about rebooting the franchise.
"The new game and the online shorts prompted us to consider a reboot of a brand we hadn’t been actively thinking about," said New Line president Toby Emmerich.
The film will be written by Tancharoen's partner on the shorts and will likely come out in conjunction with the next Mortal Kombat game. Still undetermined is whether the stars of the Web series – which include Michael Jai White and Jeri Ryan - will reprise their roles in the big budget version.
The remake has one thing going for it, though: Fan buzz. Tancharoen has proven himself to the "Mortal Kombat" core audience – a critical first step in reviving the franchise.
The first video game adaptation of James Cameron's Avatar wasn't exactly a hit with players, but the director/3D visionary isn't ready to give up on the idea.
Cameron noted recently that he believes the franchise is ideally suited for a massively multiplayer online game, much like "World of Warcraft" or the upcoming "Star Wars: The Old Republic".
"I think Avatar is a perfect IP for an MMO," Cameron told IGN. "It's a very, very big world and based on the first film, you might not sense that, but we're talking about an entire planet, an entire alter world, and in fact a universe that has other planetary bodies, as well, and other cultures, other life forms.
"Eventually people will see enough scope to be able to see how the MMO will work, but that's going to have to be launched... the timing of that is going to have to be carefully orchestrated with the release of the second and third film because we don't want to be giving away elements before the fact."
The Avatar game, published by Ubisoft, failed to take off as expected – and was a drag on the publisher's 4Q 2009 earnings. It wasn't a flop by any means, though. While critics lambasted it, the game sold more than 2.7 million copies.
Want to play what's likely to be this year's biggest PlayStation 3 game on a big screen? I mean a really big screen? Get thee to the local Cineplex!
AMC and Sony have teamed up to let gamers play "Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception" in 3D and in the theater in select cities nationwide.
San Francisco, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles and Washington DC players will have the opportunity on Oct. 18, 19 and 20. $25 will get them a general admission ticket, but $60 buys a 'premium pass' that will allow them to get a copy of the game before it hits store shelves on Nov. 11.
Rather than sending people home with games, Sony will ship their copy via FedEx on Oct. 25. Members from the Naughty Dog development team will also be on hand to speak with fans.
"Uncharted" is one of the most natural fits in the gaming world for a big screen play session. Previous entries in the series have been lauded for their cinematic qualities and strong focus on story telling alongside the action.
A big screen adaptation of the series is currently underway. Director Neil Burger, best known for Bradley Cooper's "Limitless" and the Edward Norton-starring "The Illusionist," took over the directorial reins in July after David O. Russell walked away from the project due to "creative differences". So far no casting announcements have been made by Burger, though Mark Wahlberg was attached to Russell's version.
Additionally, Spike TV and Sony are teaming up to create a reality show centering on the game. Dubbed Uncharted 3: Race to the Ring, the show will be filmed this October and air before the end of the year on Spike.
The continuing customer backlash at Netflix is taking on staggering proportions. The company (whose stock, by the way, is down another 7 percent in trading this morning) has lost a quarter of its value in the past month.
Things don't look to be slowing down, either – and competitors are viewing that as a golden opportunity to swoop in and steal some of those disgruntled customers.
Leading that pack is Blockbuster, which has called a press conference for Friday where it says it will unveil "the most comprehensive home entertainment package ever." That's corporate hyperbole at its best, of course, but the upshot appears to be the Blockbuster streaming service is about to become official.
The Dish Network property has been expected to jump into the streaming market for a while now – but has played its cards close to its vest. There have been rumors, though, that it might be offered free to Dish Network subscribers. Other whispers indicate it will include content from Starz, whose current relationship with Netflix is set to end on Feb. 28.
And just to ensure it reaches as many people as possible with its news, Blockbuster plans to stream its announcement online via Ustream.
Netflix saw its problems begin in July, when it announced plans to separate subscription fees for its streaming and DVD rental service, effectively raising the rates for people who subscribed to both by 60 percent. That resulted in the company being forced to lower third-quarter subscription estimates by 1 million.
Late Sunday, it angered people again by announcing plans to separate its streaming and rental-by-mail businesses into separate divisions, eliminating much of the convenience the site has been famous for. Starting in a few weeks, the DVD delivery service will be called Qwikster.
Chris Morris reports on the the intersection of Hollywood and technology, as well as the latest must-have consumer technology gadgets.
Tips and feedback are encouraged at chris.r.morris-at-gmail-com