Press-Republican

FYI...

September 27, 2013

Does 'Grand Theft Auto V' mean the end of Hollywood?

There's a good chance you've heard: "Grand Theft Auto V," the latest installment of the storied video game franchise, took in over $1 billion in its first week. That's more than any movie released this year, with the exception of "Iron Man 3" (which happens to be the fifth highest-grossing movie of all time). At this rate, "GTA V" could be a nontrivial contributor to the U.S. gross domestic product. It's a cultural event. Even Apple should be impressed.

It's not a stretch to think that the people who didn't go to the movies this summer might have said, "you know what, I'm skipping a few and using the cash for a different kind of blockbuster."

In that case, the most interesting number to keep in mind may be 100 — the approximate number of hours of gameplay that "GTA V" reportedly offers. For those diligent and conscientious enough to explore all the side quests, excursions and games- within-the-game, it provides weeks of entertainment.

That makes the $60 retail price a bargain: 100 hours of gameplay at $0.60 an hour. Compare that with the price of admission to a movie, even a two-and-a-half hour megaproduction. The other advantage for video games — driving the usage cost down even further — is that buyers get to keep the game.

So, could the multiple box-office disappointments last summer reflect the beginning of a shift that goes well beyond blockbuster fatigue?

There's little reason to think that movies and video games couldn't continue to co-exist. But if audiences are becoming overly familiar with Hollywood's version of the three-act- structure and if games continue to grow as a form of narrative entertainment, it's tantalizing to think that the next few years or decades might bring some more serious attempts at experimentation and cross-pollination.

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