EDITORIALS

Iron Man vs GTA IV: The Ultimate Summer Showdown? Think Again

by
April 3, 2008
Source: Next Generation

Iron Man vs GTA IV

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.

GTA IVAn 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.

Iron ManI 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.

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  • Tyler
  • http://www.andreascliment.com Andreas Climent
    I'm not that excited about GTA IV to be honest. The graphics look like a PS2-game. Iron Man looks awesome though =)
  • http://www.mattgriswold.com Matt
    I disagree with the notion that "in this day and age no one chooses one or the other anymore" - there is a trade-off to be had for both money and attention, whether or not we realize it. I don't think the two will cannibalize one another to the degree that's being touted, but there will be some effect. At the end of the day, the press will surely twist the numbers to the perceived detriment of Iron Man simply due to zealous expectations for an nascent franchise. I am excited to experience both, so I'll make the trade-off (subconsciously) from something else... Pink Berry, perhaps? I'm just waiting for the headlines about how GTA IV has crippled the returns for Starbucks, Pink Berry, newsstands, and MMA pay-per-view... that would likely be more on par with the truth.
  • chris
    i think its a load of rubbish :P if they were both out the same day, then maybe it would make a slight difference to who saw the movie...although i'd just book the day off work, go and buy the game and see Iron Man in the morning, spend all day playing GTA, then go back for a late showing of the movie when my friends had finished work...easy!
  • areReady
    @Andreas: Are you kidding? Have you paid even ten seconds' worth of attention to GTA IV coverage? The game's graphics are incredible. Do they look as good as Gears of War? No, but Gears of War is a small, highly-controlled environment as opposed to GTA's massive, open, free-form area - that has no loading from one end to the other. But to say PS2-era graphics is just ignorant and trollish at this point. My birthday falls this week, and it's going to be awesome. A revolutionary new installment of the best video game series of all time AND Robert Downey Jr. bringing incredible personal acting skills to the table with top-notch CGI and the rampant imagination of Marvel Comics. I'm not getting drunk during my birthday week, I'm geekin' out.
  • Rigo
    i think it wont matter, takin 2/3 hours off from the game to watch a movie (good one too) is whats going to happen.
  • harrison
    i know a lot of gamers being one myself but not a whole lot of them excited for gta4, almost everyone i know is looking forward to ironman, i think theyll be lucky to make their estimate of 5.8m copies but if it came down to seeing a great movie for 10$ or buying a game for $60 i think ironman could set a record for that weekend
  • http://www.moviemarketingmadness.com/blog/ Chris
    That's a good idea re: buying up the 360 ad space. But I do think whatever money GTA makes is coming directly out of Iron Man's box office potential. While you raise a good point that gamers will have had 72 hours to play GTA before IM comes out, the game costs, what, $50? That's going to cut into the "Entertainment" column of many people's disposable income budget. And if I just shelled out $50 I'm going to play that game until my thumbs hurt. Plus remember there's the whole immediacy factor. GTA is going to be played and played immediately so that everyone can compare their scores and they're going to be engaged finding and leaving hints and tips. Going to see Iron Man can be delayed. It's not going anywhere for a few weeks and it'll be on DVD eventually so what's the rush? I think GTA is going to have a significant impact on Iron Man's box office. What that winds up being I'm not sure, but it will be there.
  • matthew
    I'll help the IRONMAN cause. I'll see the film a ton of times to help out ;)
  • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
    Chris - I appreciate your comments, however your statements are the EXACT ones that I mentioned initially in my article as those that analysts "throw around" because that's what they have in front of them on paper in writing and numbers. To be honest, your statement about people's "entertainment column" of their "disposable income budget" is a completely unfounded and ridiculous belief that doesn't actually hold up in reality. In all seriousness, NO kids in this day and age have a budget that is that limited or that structured that they literally cannot see a movie over a seven day period becuase they just spent $60 on a video game. That is a belief that I've heard analysts make all too often and one that I continue to laugh at - it's just unrealistic. If I need to come up with something to dispel it even further, I'd bet you any kid would rather ditch spend $10 on lunch/dinner that their parents gave them to eat and instead go see Iron Man with a group of their friends. Second, your point about the immediacy factor is appropriate but let me ask you - have you played a game? Are you a gamer? I believe all real gamers, which is myself and every friend I know, can take breaks for movies, especially that many days after release. The MOST any game ever demands when it comes to non-stop gaming is 72 hours. After that point any person will easily continue to play constantly at any spare moment, but when reminded (hence the Xbox 360 dashboard advertising) and encouraged (hence reviews and groups of friends going) will easily take a break then to go see Iron Man. The 6 million gamers who will own a copy of GTA IV are not going to be so competitive that all 6 million of them won't set down the controller on either Friday, Saturday, or Sunday that weekend. You'd know this IF you were a gamer. I think you'll be "shocked" to discover that Iron Man's performance won't be that affected by GTA. Now the problem is if Iron Man doesn't perform too well, the blame may be put on GTA IV, when in actuality it is other numerous conditions. The lack of positive buzz or early reviews or simply not enough last-minute push from Paramount. That is where the real problem will lie. They need to start launching TV spots and more within these last few weeks to really get people out there and in theaters. They do NOT need to be concerned about GTA IV.
  • http://www.drduvel.net Dr.Duvel
    Alex, I don't think you should be too shootie-downie of Chris' points. I think they're very valid. You're assertion : "NO kids in this day and age have a budget that is that limited or that structured that they literally cannot see a movie over a seven day period becuase they just spent $60 on a video game. "?? HELLO 90210!! I'm in full time employment and my budget is that constrained!! but then a movie ticket isn't just a movie ticket for me, its mine, the girlfriends, dinner, ice-cream, drinks and a taxi home. Buying GTA IV is the cheaper option for me!! Ok, it isn't because I don't have an XBOX 360 yet, but GTA is THE killer App for me. Neither Gears of War or Halo 3 did it, but GTA IV is what has me pricing up the 360 and camping out on ebay. I got a solid 60+ hours out of GTA3 and more out of GTA : Vice City before my PS2 imploded. (GTA IV is actually the 7th variant : 1, 2, 3, Vice City, San Andreas, Liberty City Stories, IV) Despite my various ramblings my point is this : GTA IV will be the first game I've bought since World of Warcraft 3 years ago (yes, yes and yes), will it mean I miss Iron Man ? No, but it may well be one of the many reasons I don't see it opening week.
  • avoidz
    I've given almost ten years' play to GTA. It's time for me to retire from the series :p
  • Ivan_PSP
    Grand Theft Auto IV will outsell anything this year especially Iron Man which can be watch free by downloading from a torrent website. This game will one the best PS3 games of all times can't wait to play for at least 2 years straight not just 72 hours.
  • http://www.onthelisttv.com Csonjeow
    The proper discussion should be about opening box office numbers - those are the numbers we can gauge any real influence on anyway. Extended periods of time or overall numbers diminish heavily for VG's. GTA will hurt Iron Man's Opening Weekend. Period. There are too many pre-orders and forecasts that prove that male consumers ages 18-34 (and younger!) will be spending their customary budgets on GTA rather than movies. Will GTA fans see Iron Man later on? No doubt. So you will see the number normalize. But that all important opening weekend will be hurt.

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