More 'Halo 3' Rants From So-Called Experts

by Paul William Tenny

Am I obsessed with this? No, just slightly annoyed. You haven't seen obsessed yet. Nikki Finke is undoubtedly more of an expert on all things Hollywood than I am, and her cited games expert is certainly better placed than I to speak authoritatively on many game related discussions, and yet the silly hype over the Halo 3 sales numbers continues and the so-called experts are still content to compare apples and oranges. If you aren't familiar with the hype over the Halo 3 sales figures, I suggest you glance over these two posts so you're fresh on the topic. Right now I'm going to write a little bit about all this quoted junk from Nikki's expert on games.

Now I don't really care if Halo would make a good feature film because games don't often have much to offer in way of stories that are suitable for telling on the big screen. The difference between a crappy adaptation and a possible anchor for a new franchise is how talented the feature writer is and how free they are to do their thing. Neither of those is going to be mentioned by anyone talking about a Halo film, so we move on to the part of real interest.

As has been happening, Keith Boesky compares the opening day gross of Halo 3 to the opening day opening weekend gross of one of this summers most successful films, the one that happens to own the single-day domestic gross record: Spider-Man 3. The immediate problem that Boesky, Finke, and virtually everyone else on the planet ignores is that films don't open worldwide on the first day, which immediately handicaps its numbers when compared to virtually anything else in any industry.

SM3's opening day opening weekend gross of $151 million is only 11% off what Halo 3 did on its first day, making the event not all that big of a deal even if you consider it a fair fight - which it isn't. If SM3 opened overseas on the same day and without looking at the specific numbers, it would be hard to imagine it not being able to make up a $19 million dollar deficit. If you don't believe me, consider that SM3 grossed far more in foreign theaters than it did at home -
$553 million compared to $336 domestically.

If this pic made 44% of its domestic money on the opening day opening weekend, and you apply that to foreign numbers, you get $248 million from foreign tickets, and about $399 million worldwide - all assuming a worldwide debut, just like Halo 3 got.

If you want to fight fairer still and I haven't mentioned this yet, you have to discount the money that theaters take from the gross equation. Theaters take about 44% from everything a film makes, eating away an estimated $175 million from a theoretical worldwide debut for SM3, leaving the studio with $223 million, or about $63 million more than Halo 3 brought in (+37%).

Even with feature films losing almost half their gross to greedy theaters, Spider-Man 3 still squashes Halo 3 with an "all things being equal" worldwide debut.

Fortunately, those numbers don't really mean anything. With the drastic drop-off of game sales (Halo 3 made $170 million on day one, but only about $130 million in the ten days after) they just can't compare to feature films when it comes to total sales. SM3 has grossed $890 million worldwide while it looks like Halo 3 might not even reach half that mark when all is said and done. The games smaller price tag (to create) only offsets things a little bit when you consider the benchmark film everyone is comparing this game to has grossed probably double what the game ever will.

There are also other market-related factors that nobody has bothered to consider, such as an exhausting summer season that set an all-time record of $4.3 billion in ticket sales that was spread across dozens of huge films and even more smaller ones. Halo 3 is the only game in history to approach the kinds of numbers we're talking about while there were two films in a row that were setting records left and right in SM3 and Pirates 3.

On a single-unit comparison, Halo 3 looks fantastic. If you compare the game market this summer to the film market, it's an outright joke.

"Oh yeah, and there are all those other opportunities for ancillary revenue like novelization, action figures, graphic novels, related merchandise, they are all there, contributing incremental revenue. There is even a film. Most of the articles are reporting the film is dead...but is it?...

This is a point I've tried to make twice that nobody wants to accept: film revenue doesn't stop at the theater. Films legitimately continue making money when they are released on DVD, licensed for viewing on cable, pay-channel (HBO, Showtime) and later broadcast networks. If you factor in those numbers, not only does Halo 3 get crushed, it's not even worth talking about anymore, nor is this game within sniffing distance of the all-time film greats.

Spider-Man 3 may own the all-time single day opening weekend opening record at $151 million, but it's a far cry from the all-time gross for a feature film. That distinction belongs to James Cameron's Titanic, which grossed $600 million domestic, or just about a whopping $1.8 billion worldwide.

Even if Halo 3 manages to reach the $400 million mark (worldwide) that would only be good enough for 92nd on the all-time list. You have to make more than $516 million to hit the top 50, and $914+ million to break into the top 10.

When will people realize that Halo 3's opening day sales numbers are cool, but not much else?

[I'm rolling SM3's opening weekend into a single day because once again, you can't compare the two. Don't have a cow, they do the same thing everyplace else. -Ed.]
in Film, Games


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1 Comment

You have some valid points when in your article but when you talk about sm3 not having a world wide realese and H3 does your wrong H3 opened first day only in north america not in the UK or in asia big diference in sales espcialy if you seen H3's player tracker which plots a point where there is active halo 3 users ( the majority being the US and UK.) you see Opening day sales could be raised significantly by the add of European and Asian sales. You also have to take in to consideration the outlet which H3 was realeased (xbox 360 Exclusive) Sm3 had the advantage in sales contrary to what your article says.

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