The Cart Before The Horse?

Trying something new at Disney

"That's just how things are."

Conventional thought dictates that you release a game with a movie tie-in after the movie has already been out. Yep, that's what conventional wisdom says.

Of course, conventional wisdom used to say that the world was flat.

The Walt Disney Company has been entertaining us through film for over half a century, and its subsidiary, Disney Interactive has been doing the same on our computers for several years. But even they, with all of their experience have not tried to go against this conventional thought. That is, until now.

On Friday, June 15, Disney's new movie Atlantis opened, but an entire month before that Disney Interactive released Atlantis: The Lost Empire — Trial By Fire an entire month beforehand. To our knowledge this has never been tried before.

What prompted Disney to do this? And why has no one done this before?

During the madness of E3 GiN managed to get a few minutes to talk with Matt Bostwick, the Vice President of Marketing at Disney Interactive. He had quite a bit to say about Disney, its long history, and why sometimes you just have to put that cart first.

Disney Interactive –

GiN: Disney has put out movies for a lot longer than computer games. What lessons have you learned from the former, which can be used in the latter?

Bostwick: The Walt Disney Company has always been about creating the best entertainment content for a global audience. Whether it’s done through a movie, a TV show, a theme park experience or an interactive game, we create a compelling entertainment experience through exciting story, rich characters, and innovative, creative production design. That is the legacy of Disney animated features, and in that sense, there is a similarity between creating great movies and creating great interactive products.

GiN: What advantages do you see in putting a game with a movie tie-in out ahead of the movie itself? Why had no one done this before?

Bostwick: Disney Interactive looks at each Disney property with a unique perspective, to gauge the appropriateness and potential of that particular property for the interactive entertainment medium. This becomes much more than a movie "tie-in." It is a way to extend and even alter the entertainment experience consumers have with a particular story or with specific characters. In the case of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, we found a unique way to bring consumers into the world of Atlantis through an interactive game "prequel." The story and genre of this movie lends itself very well to this, with an exciting adventure-driven plot, and many different kinds of characters in search of something valuable and illusive. This works very well for an interactive game, and for creating anticipation of the movie adventure to come.

GiN: Is there a concern that the game might ‘spoil’ or ‘give away’ the movie for some viewers?

Bostwick: No. In fact, the interactive game enhances the experience of the movie, taking different twists and turns. Nothing is given away at all.

GiN: How much did the production of the game parallel that of the movie?

Bostwick: Disney Interactive works collaboratively with Walt Disney Feature Animation to create our games, although we work with separate development studios and have our own in-house production teams. Animated movies take years to complete, and Disney Interactive does have different development schedules than those of Walt Disney Feature Animation, although at some point our schedules do cross.

GiN: What is the target demographic for the computer game? How does this compare to the projected demographics of the movie?

Bostwick: Atlantis: The Lost Empire — Trial By Fire is geared to gamers age eight and up. The game has an ESRB rating of "E" for "Everyone." The movie is rated PG. We also have a junior game based on the movie, called Atlantis: The Lost Empire — The Lost Games, which is designed for a younger audience of four to eight.

GiN: How much did the release of the free preview game improve sales of the retail game?

Bostwick: It’s really too soon to know this, however, we are very optimistic based on initial information.

GiN: Do you predict that the game will have helped increase the gross of the movie?

Bostwick: We hope that the game will enhance the movie-going experience for consumers, and that fans of the game will want to extend their gaming experience by seeing the movie as well. We expect many people will want to experience both, especially as the story of the search for Atlantis is so compelling.

GiN: Do you have plans for releasing your products in this order for future Disney films?

Bostwick: Again, it is not really about what order these properties get released in, but rather what will offer the most compelling entertainment experience for consumers, with regard to the particular story or property. It is entirely possible we would release a game ahead of the movie, but not simply because we could — it would be because it was the right decision for our property and for our audiences.

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