Top grossing movies and games of 2015: what’s going on?

It’s already over a month since my last post, so it’s about time for some new content! This is something I started to think about some time ago, namely: what kind of movies and games are making most money and where do the ideas for those come from. The following lists are based on the revenues in the US only (movies and games) and it is worth noting that mobile games are excluded – for now. I’m planning on expanding this brief analysis with mobile games, but let’s focus on movies and console games for now.

First, the movies (top grossing first):

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  2. Jurassic World
  3. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  4. Inside Out
  5. Furious 7
  6. Minions
  7. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
  8. The Martian
  9. Cinderella
  10. Spectre

And then the games:

  1. Call of Duty: Black Ops III
  2. Madden NFL 16
  3. Fallout 4
  4. Star Wars: Battlefront
  5. Grand Theft Auto V
  6. NBA 2K16
  7. Minecraft
  8. FIFA 16
  9. Mortal Kombat
  10. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Now, what are these titles based on? Six out of ten movies are based on books or graphic novels, while the rest (Star Wars, Inside Out, Furious 7, Minions) can be said to be original ideas. Well, as much as ideas can be unique in these times.

What about games then? Three are based on sports franchises, one on a movie, and the remaining six are original ideas.

So what? What does this tell us about the originality of ideas in the film and game industry? In both industries, sequels + reboots + spin offs + adaptations rule the game. From these two list, I’d say Minecraft and Inside Out really stand out: Minecraft for originally being the brainchild of a Swedish startup and Inside Out for being based on an idea created by PIxar’s talents and creative capabilities.

To be honest, it’s no wonder most of these titles are based on existing intellectual property (IP) as the production costs have been increasing almost exponentially over the years. Plus it is becoming more and more difficult to come up with an entirely unique idea as we nowadays have access to numerous sources both online and offline.

Banking on existing IP is a viable strategy for companies looking to leverage their assets, and therefore companies are constantly focusing on the following two questions:

  1. How do we build on and extend the existing IP? Do we produce more movies or games, or do we expand to other fields? (e.g. Books, plush toys, clothing, beverages etc.)
  2. How do we transition from existing IP to either creating new IP or building on other IP?

As you might have guessed, the first question is somewhat less risky than the second one as creating new IP from a scratch is not only costly but also risky. Having said that, there aren’t that many IPs with a history spanning decades, which is why companies should nurture capabilities that enable them to transition from existing IPs to new ones as well as develop skills that help in taking advantage of IP developed elsewhere.

Now where do we go from here? What kind of issues should we be looking at next?

  1. Global revenues of games and movies – the lists above are based on the sales in the US only, but global statistics as well as data from other countries would definitely change the picture at least a bit
  2. Mobile games – although production costs for mobile games have also been soaring, there are still numerous interesting IPs created every year. Moreover, in mobile games we have seen some interesting ways to develop existing IP, which is why this aspect should warrant more research: both from academics and practitioners.

In fact, looking at the creative processes behind adapting existing IP to mobile games would be really interesting as well as relevant! How do mobile game developers create and pitch their ideas to IP holders, and what kind of ideas become financially successful would be issues that at least smaller companies would like to know more about.

What do you think? Please have your say in the comment section below, and let’s continue talking!

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