Movie-based brands play small role in growing market

Add another $100 million to the take for “Spider-Man 2.”

Activision’s adaptation of the Sony film was the top-selling movie-based game of 2004. But in a year in which vidgame sales grew nearly 8% over the previous year, Hollywood brands played a comparatively small role.

“Spider-Man 2″ was the only game licensed from a studio to crack the top 10, according to industry tracker NPD Group.

Other top-selling games based on studio properties included LucasArts’ “Star Wars: Battlefront” and “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic,” “Shrek 2″ from Activision, THQ’s “The Incredibles” and “SpongeBob SquarePants Movie,” and Electronic Arts’ “James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing.”

But all those Hollywood licenses paled behind two sequels that dominated the vidgame biz in 2004: Rockstar Games’ “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” which generated $250 million, and Microsoft’s $218 million-grossing “Halo 2.”

Those two games alone accounted for nearly 8% of all vidgame revenue in 2004.

Numerous studios and producers have attempted to license both of the hit vidgame franchises for movies, thus far to no avail (Daily Variety, Dec. 22).

“Our market was not driven by Hollywood licenses in 2004,” said Doug Lowenstein, prexy of industry trade group Entertainment Software Assn. “Like other entertainment industries, this is very much a hits-driven business, and it was driven by a lot of sequels.”

Overall, the vidgame industry was flat in 2004, at about $10 billion, with slower hardware sales countering the growth in game sales.

Games brought in $6.2 billion in 2004.

That puts games at about two-thirds the size of box office receipts last year, which came in at $9.2 billion. But unlike the theatrical market, where higher ticket prices kept revenue flat despite declining admissions, vidgame unit sales grew last year, while the average unit price was constant at $50.

Sales of consoles such as Xbox and Gameboy Advance fell 17% to $2.4 billion, due primarily to price cuts, some supply shortages and the late stage in the console life cycle.

Nintendo just released its new handheld console, the DS, and Sony is set to enter the market in March with its PlayStation Portable. By next fall, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are expected to start releasing new versions of their consoles, spurring new growth in the industry.

NPD’s figures don’t include PC, Internet or mobile phone games.

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