Iron Man vs GTA IV: The Ultimate Summer Showdown? Think Again
With the summer movie season now arriving in less than a month, buzz is just starting to pick up again, especially for Iron Man - the big superhero movie that will kick off the rather exciting summer line-up. However, one question that has become increasingly prevalent is whether the impending release of Grand Theft Auto IV (on April 29th), the fourth edition of Rockstar's incredibly successful hyper-violent game franchise, will have an impact on the performance of Iron Man (out in theaters on May 2nd). Not only is GTA IV expected to perform amazingly well, but Iron Man is an untested franchise based on a non-mainstream comic book character. Looking at the current levels of interest in both, I'm expect Iron Man to still perform strong - despite what others may be saying.
An industry analyst over at Next Generation made the prediction that GTA IV could end up selling 5.8 million copies of the game in the first week for a cumulative revenue of $360 million. At the average ticket price of $10, this means that GTA IV could (in theory) take a solid $60 million out of Iron Man's prospective earnings. But honestly, that's a terrible way of looking at the situation. You can analyze and throw numbers around all day, but what it comes down to in the end is the actions and decisions of gamers, myself included, and the fact that just because 5.8 million people bought a copy of GTA IV doesn't mean they're not going to see Iron Man. In fact, I think the entire situation is on the contrary.
Gamers and moviegoers are very similar, if not typically the same person. So yes, an analyst could make the claim that this could have an impact, but in this day and age no one chooses one or the other anymore. Especially when a video game is an on-going experience and a movie is a two hour diversion. I don't think GTA IV will have a major impact on Iron Man's performance because these gamers can easily take a three to four hour break from their gaming at some point over the opening week/weekend to go see Iron Man. In fact, that's what I think a lot of them will actually do. The belief that gamers are addicted and never leave their TV is overblown - that is only an extreme situation that accounts for probably less than 10% of all gamers. Eventually they've got to eat and/or take a break, and if reminded correctly, that will involve the idea of going to see kick ass movie - Iron Man.
You also can't forget that the release date of GTA IV is officially Tuesday, April 29th, which leaves a good three days of game time before Iron Man hits theaters. By then even the most hardcore gamers will have had their complete share of a maximum 72 hours of gaming and can dedicate a few hours to see Tony Stark suit up in the Mark III armor and kick some Iron Monger ass.
This is where I need to pitch a marketing idea to Paramount. The only issue with a situation where gamers are wrapped up in GTA IV over the launch weekend is how they'll be reminded to go see Iron Man. There are two aspects to this: 1) good reviews and solid early buzz need to be played up a LOT, and 2) they need to market directly to the GTA IV crowd to remind them, not introduce them, that Iron Man is playing. The best move that Paramount could make is buy up 100% of the ad space on the Xbox 360's dashboard Thursday through Sunday that weekend. Paramount really needs to hone down and remind people that Iron Man, which is (hopefully) getting kick ass reviews, is in theaters that weekend and demands a few hours of their time. If the movie is good, expect my review of it to be posted within hours of screening it in advance.
I love that the discussion of GTA IV's impact on Iron Man's performance is even being brought up to begin with. Not only does this show quite a bit of support for Iron Man, but it's an interest discussion that I think industry professionals have all too often ignored in recent years. I remember previously writing an article called Biggest Weekend For Entertainment Ever, which addressed the weekend in 2006 in which the Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii launched and Casino Royale hit theaters. Both Entertainment Weekly and SlashFilm also have written articles discussion the matter. Thankfully EW actually provides more statements from industry analysts that side with my opinion. "The idea that no one is going to see Iron Man because they will be playing Grand Theft Auto is the dopiest thing I've ever heard."
I'm very anxious to see how Iron Man performs in the Spider-Man 3 slot on May 2nd. The bigger question regarding its performance isn't the impact that GTA IV will have on it, but rather how adaptive people will be to it. For the first time ever I heard a friend say to me today that he's not that excited for Iron Man, despite the recent trailer receiving over 100 comments and everyone else I know being very excited as well. His claim was that people still perceive Iron Man as a mediocre comic book character who isn't mainstream and thus not destined to be part of a phenomenal movie (look at Daredevil). I hope I'll be the first to say he's wrong once it hits theaters, but we've got to wait a few more weeks for that opportunity.