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So, reading WoWInsider’s daily queue, I came across this question:

dumbass said:

Ok, so, I’ve just watched Hobbit and, having read the book ,but not being a LOTR buff, the film still felt pretty darn amazing. The art, the effects, the way they went about things. WHY ISNT THERE A WOW MOVIE??? If they can do that with Hobbit, I mean come on ,the style felt so WoW-like. And the box office would be off the charts for it imo. Any idea’s why it’s still not out there?

I don’t know about the profitability of a movie. The fan base isn’t as relatively large as many think it is, for one. Assuming $8 a ticket, let’s be generous and say that everyone who has ever played WoW also manages to talk someone else into seeing the movie with them. That’s 24 million people! Actually…that’s actually not a huge number in movie ticket sales. The top 100 movies sold a much higher range: 50-200 million.

Let’s do some math, though, and guess how much money Blizzard would make. 24 million * $8 = $192 million. That sounds pretty good! But that’s just gross intake. You have to subtract production costs, advertising, etc. The Hobbit? Guesstimations put that at $300 million to make. Even if WoW went for a drastically lower budget, they’d still have to invest some decent funds to make the movie look professional. The anomaly of the incredible El Mariachi aside, most movies take a big chunk of change, with fantasy movies requiring even more. It appears that no top (or even modest) grossing fantasy movie has been made in recent years with a budget of less than $50-$100 million.

I'm ready for my close up, Mr. Ghostcrawler.

I’m ready for my close up, Mr. Ghostcrawler.

Blizzard already tagged Sam Raimi for producer – even though he’s backed out, we can approximate what style (and cost) of movie he’d make by looking back at his other recent projects. Spiderman 3 is probably an unfair example, since it’s one of the most expensive movies to be made. Ever. Legend of the Seeker, however, is more on-point: a toned-down and SFX’d up version of Raimi’s original Xena and Hercules series, the show makes do with a budget of $1.5 million an episode, which is leaning towards the higher end, especially for non-network television. The special effects, however, are clearly made-for-TV quality, and a much larger amount of money would need to be allocated for a movie. Raimi’s most recent work, Oz: The Great and Powerful, had a budget of around $200 million, a number that is becoming increasingly more average for big name fantasy flick. Extrapolating from these, it seems that Raimi’s average production budgets, as far as fantasy stuff goes, would range from solidly above average to Lord of the Rings territory…so we can conclude that Blizzard would be aiming at a fairly high bar (which is pretty well reinforced by the company itself, in my opinion. They don’t do substandard stuff).

So, basically – the movie would either have to be quite cheap to make (which doesn’t look likely) OR draw in a ton of general fans, to cover the production costs and net a large profit. Just how generic would the movie have to go to draw in non-WoW players? How much would that deviation detract from the movie? At the least, there would have to be heavy backstory exposition – or a lot of sweeping changes to lighten the plot and make it easier to follow – to catch the non-gamers up on the storyline. I’ll let you chew on that and consider how it would affect the overall movie.

This whole moment – the verge of confronting Varimathras in the Battle for Undercity – would be drastically scaled down to, “There’s a demon being demony so let’s demon slay!” And Sylvanas wouldn’t be undead. Hell, it’d probably just be all about Thrall to simplif- heeeeeey wait….

Conversely, Diablo 3 sold over 10 million copies, at (let’s round down) $50 a piece. That’s $500 million gross intake.Rounding up as much as we can (to match the insane budge of Gran Turismo 5), let’s say D3 cost $50 million to make. That’s a much larger investment to profit return.

However, it goes beyond even that – Blizzard is a video game company. Making a live action movie is entirely outside of their wheelhouse, so either a large chunk of the movie would have to be outsourced (perhaps with Blizzard just providing the story, rights and maybe some creative input), or a big investment would have to be made in regards to staffing and equipment (which, really, just is impractical unless Blizzard is planning on making other movies in the future).

In short, making a Warcraft movie would likely not be a financially wise decision for Blizzard. It might, however, be good for other reasons – such as a PR move to pull in more subscribers to the Warcraft/WoW franchise. In my opinion, it would have to pay out quite solidly in this other department to be worth the creation of an entire movie… which may have been the entire original point of the movie. Remember, the movie was first announced in 2006, at the height of vanilla and WoW’s seemingly-unstoppable rise in popularity.

WoW subs over time. From http://mmodata.blogspot.com/

WoW subs over time. From http://mmodata.blogspot.com/

At the time, creating a movie probably seemed to be an ambitious, but exciting, idea for a spin-off. Sure, the profits would only be modest at best, but it would draw even more players into this new world of MMOs. The sky probably seemed to be the limit – more and more people were discovering online gaming and the industry was growing at exponential rates. A movie would only draw even more in.

However, time passed and this growth slowed. WoW seems to have settled into the 9-12 million subscriber range, and has hovered around these numbers for several years. Furthermore, it seems the MMO market itself has saturated and reached somewhat of an equilibrium of players, staying steadily around 20 million:

All MMO subs over time. Image from http://mmodata.blogspot.com/

All MMO subs over time. Image from http://mmodata.blogspot.com/

A movie nowadays would lack that recruitment punch that it would have held in 2006; Blizzard would be pulling a relatively small amount of new MMO players in with it, and existing gamers probably wouldn’t try WoW out just because of the movie. A new game (Titan, cough, cough), new expansion, or revised content, on the other hand, is much cheaper to make and more likely to draw in gamers from other games, draw back straying WoW subs or draw money out of D3/Starcraft addicts in need of the new game fix.

All that being said, have you heard about Defiance? This game is intertwined with a  TV show on SyFy – the game world is represented on the small screen, characters from the TV show appear in game, game events revolve around the TV plot – and promises to be a potential…err…game changer when it comes to video games. Even though it’s not really my thing (I like to test shooters, but I’m not as much a fan of playing them), I will probably keep a close eye on this just to see what develops.  If it works out? Hey, maybe we will see a WoW movie someday.

I really hope so, if only to see the racial dances on the big screen. >_>