Movie-to-video-game adaptations have always been a little hit and a miss. However, Ubisoft's Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora seems like it could set a new standard for how Hollywood and the video games industry intersect.
Before we go on, I do feel the need to add a short disclaimer about Ubisoft. If you aren’t aware, a number of developers at Ubisoft came out last year levying allegations of systemic abuse and harassment by senior members of staff. If you haven’t seen or heard about it yet, I would recommend you take a moment to learn about it.
Okay, so Ubisoft announced Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora at E3 this past weekend. Featuring photo-realistic vegetation, vast landscapes and epic set pieces, Frontiers will transcribe the movie into a playable experience. The game seems like it may also set a new standard for movie projects in the gaming industry.
While there are some great examples of video game adaptations of Hollywood hits, quality has been pretty poor in places. As the technology at developers' disposal advances, it feels like the gap between Hollywood and video games will shrink.
Right off the bat, Frontiers of Pandora looks visually stunning. I would go as far to say that plenty of the vegetation across Pandora looks almost photo-realistic. It’s on par, and likely exceeds, the visual standard set by Avatar in 2009. This might change when footage of the upcoming sequel appears, but for now, Frontiers Of Pandora exceeds the visuals of the original movie.
Visuals aren’t everything of course. However, when working with a fantasy project, ensuring the visuals are great will not only immerse players in the game, but also help suspend disbelief. From the gameplay teaser shown, it also looks incredibly authentic. The world is teeming with life, including animals in the land, air and sea.
That jump in quality will make Frontiers of Pandora feel less like movie promotion, and more like a standalone entry. It’s unclear how the game will fit in with the movie timeline. However, Ubisoft has stated that it will tell a standalone story. Here’s hoping it fits in around the upcoming movie and allows players to experience the world in their own way.
A change in dynamics
Frontiers of Pandora also marks a shifting change in the dynamic between Hollywood and the video game industry. No longer seen as the plucky underdog industry, video games are some of the most profitable properties in the market. The industry is in a place where it doesn’t need to justify the potential of a video game adaptation to Hollywood. Hollywood is invested in video games because it provides a huge source of income, and cross-promotes films.
Hollywood is keenly aware of this as there are now more TV and movie adaptations of video games than ever before. Everything from The Witcher through to the Sonic movie were built on the success of video games, a trend that looks set to continue in the years to come. Movie adaptations of game properties in development currently include Minecraft (honestly), Uncharted, Gears of War and Borderlands.
It looks set to go the other way as well, as Ubisoft is currently working on a large-scale Star Wars game alongside Frontiers of Pandora. These two projects could potentially spark a new era for the relationship between video games and Hollywood. Leading to high-quality video games that release alongside or in tandem with movies. No longer an afterthought or a quick cash-grab, projects could instead be recognised parts of movie lore.
A second chance
The previous Avatar game performed reasonably well sales wise, but released to mixed reviews amongst critics and fans. Lacking an open-world and the same visual standard set by the film, it's success relied on it releasing with the film. The same game under another brand likely wouldn't have sold any where near as well.
Frontiers of Pandora marks a second chance for Ubisoft. Boasting a huge open-world, its own story and stellar visuals, there's a reason for fans to get invested. It could not only act as a stepping stone ahead of the new movie, but may also stand as its own property without the confines of the movie universe. Honestly, Frontiers of Pandora should have Avatar fans excited. For the first time since the movie released in 2009, players can now further explore the lore in a deep, detailed world that was built with them in mind.
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is exciting for a number of reasons. It marks a shifting change in the dymamic between video games and Hollywood, while also being the first major Avatar release in over 12 years. However the title turns out, it's a great time to be an Avatar fan.