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Matrix Game Payments To Wachowskis Revealed

simoniker posted more than 11 years ago | from the choose-the-money-bag-or-the-money-bag dept.

Games 22

Thanks to an anonymous reader for pointing to a report discussing the financial terms of the deal made with the Wachowski Brothers for the Matrix games. It's rare that anyone gets to see the kind of financial terms granted to creators of big licenses like The Matrix. But divorce documents for one of the brothers, made available via The Smoking Gun, have revealed a total of 2.75 million dollars will be paid to them with regard to Atari's Enter The Matrix game (and another 2.75 million going direct to Warner Bros), plus an eventual total of 2.5 million dollars going to the Wachowskis for Ubi Soft's The Matrix Online through 2007. More proof, if needed, that games are seriously big business.

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Small Correction (4, Insightful)

Babbster (107076) | more than 11 years ago | (#6020037)

It's more proof, if needed, that many game companies would rather spend millions of dollars on a big-ticket license than spend that money making a truly great game.

Re:Small Correction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6020084)

Babbster's sig is: I strip sigs so that I can't see them. You should too!

I'm posting this just so that people with sigs turned off will know.

Re:Small Correction (2, Insightful)

sebi (152185) | more than 11 years ago | (#6020542)

It's more proof, if needed, that many game companies would rather spend millions of dollars on a big-ticket license than spend that money making a truly great game.

Your assessment is definitely correct, however the companies have a pretty good reason for doing such things: Shelling out for the license greatly increases the likelihood of making money. The Matrix game was pre-ordered 4 million times, as far as I know. Without the license nobody would have bought it. The game is okay as it shows another facet of the Matrix universe. On it's own it would be pretty weak.

What I did not understand from reading the article was if the payments to Warner and the Wachowskis were exclusively royalties, or if they were for the work they contributed to the game. The brothers apparently wrote the story, directed the game and created quite a lot of live-action footage as well.

Another thought: Had Ubisoft/Atari spent the same amount on marketing an original game the impact would never have been nearly as big. As it stands they can ride the Matrix hype for free. That makes it a good business decision. Still a mediocre game, but I bought and enjoyed it nonetheless.

Re:Small Correction (2, Interesting)

Babbster (107076) | more than 11 years ago | (#6020612)

You're right on every level. I would never question Atari (formerly Infogrames) or Ubisoft on their business decision to spend the money for those licensing rights. Not only was the movie huge but the themes and style of the movie are perfect for videogames. I'm not even against it in abstract terms because the more those companies make on Enter The Matrix and the Matrix MMOG, the more money they have to spend on other games within their company that might have ended up being second-rate niche titles otherwise.

Facts are facts, though, and the fact is that 9 out of 10 (conservative estimate) games licensed from TV shows and movies stink so bad that game stores could be Superfund sites.

One can only hope that Atari and Ubisoft will spend the money they're going to rake in on these projects on more interesting projects rather than paying bonuses to top execs or buying more big licenses.

PS - I have to note in closing that anything keeping the Atari symbol profitable and productive is a good thing in my nostalgic eyes. :)

Re:Small Correction (1)

sebi (152185) | more than 11 years ago | (#6020716)

Atari has the greatest logo of all time, if you ask me. I agree that most of the licensed games end up being pretty horrible. I wonder if they maximise profits this way or if they simply don't care. Would the games sell noticeably if more time and money was spent on development? Or is the name all that is needed to recoup the license investment and then some?

Hopefully game development will get closer to the movie business in this regard. Some major titles make a lot of money and enable smaller teams to come out with the underground gems. Some independent films make a lot of money. The others at least make some viewers happy. I wouldn't mind a similar situation with games. I will wait for the 'Rushmore' of the gaming world.

Re:Small Correction (3, Insightful)

Babbster (107076) | more than 11 years ago | (#6021924)

I agree that most of the licensed games end up being pretty horrible. I wonder if they maximise profits this way or if they simply don't care.

There are three primary factors that I believe enter into the "suckiness" of most licensed games:

1. First and foremost is the time factor. Many of the licenses are granted with a strict time limitation involved in order to maximize crossover profits with the film or television show being adapted. If the originator (the movie/TV production company) is smart, they'll try to get the license out there as early as possible to allow more development time. An example of a license that was granted early would be Activision/Treyarch with Spider-Man - not only had Treyarch already done Spider-Man in game form before but the deal was done so early that there was little concern about rushed development. This resulted in a polished game and will probably work again for next year's Spider-Man movie and game.

2. Money. Depending on the agreement, video game companies can be looking at making relatively little profit on a game (usually because of high royalties guaranteed to the owner of the property) and so will devote fewer resources to it than they might to an original game where they will garner all the profit. This usually shows up when you get a licensed game home and it turns out that the levels are all almost identical, there are fewer character animations, software bugs, sloppy bland textures, etc. In these cases, the company is indeed simply turning out a game they probably know is substandard just to make a quick buck from cross promotion and name recognition.

3. Sometimes it's just the wrong people that get hold of a license. It might be that the company assigns a property to their weakest development team because they have nothing else on the horizon, they might misread the skills of the team (like having a group that specializes in strategy games try to turn out their first third-person brawler), the prospective lead designer decides to bail on the company after the deal is done, etc.

Of course, #3 is applicable to all kinds of games - not just licensed properties.

In short, yes, to some extent companies DO grab properties just to make a quick buck but sometimes other problems can crop up to make the job that much harder. I personally consider problem #1 to be the worst of the lot since we've all seen what can happen if a company tries to rush a game out the door.

Making any kind of game in this age of extremely high expectations and "instant Internet karma" is a risky prospect. The complications of having to deal with outside influences in the case of licensed properties just make it that much more difficult.

Re:Small Correction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6021085)

I also bought the game (for Xbox) and I find it quite enjoyable, but as you said, that's only because it's a Matrix game. Take away the license and Max Payne starts looking a lot more fun. It feels tainted, only because it's such a blatant cash grab. I mean, Atari and related companies made out like bandits on this.

It just so happened that the game and movie came out while E3 was going on, preventing any legitimate reviews to be available before the game was for sale. The game feels rushed, but IIRC this game has been in development, base platform PS2, for quite some time now.

Hopefully there will be another game at some point, and a much better one. I think a fighting game in the Matrix would be the most amazing thing ever, if properly developed.

A very large correction. (1)

Inoshiro (71693) | more than 11 years ago | (#6022261)

"The Matrix game was pre-ordered 4 million times, as far as I know"

No, that's way off. The most pre-ordered game is still Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker at 650,000 preorders. There were a lot of Matrix preorders, but the real number is probably around 300,000 -- nowhere near 4 million.

Considering the game itself just broke 1 million units [] , this only adds further doubt to your inflated numbers.

Re:A very large correction. (1)

sebi (152185) | more than 11 years ago | (#6022292)

You're right. I mistook number of units ordered by retailers with pre-orders. Retailers ordered [] four million copies (beware: Splash advertising page when you follow the link). According to your link three million still have to be sold.

Re:Small Correction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6020621)

2.5 million doesn't buy very much. Ok, it would buy me a lot of cool stuff, but you can easily spend that one a dozen or so people in a year. Before you disagree, remember to count not just salery, but also benifits and overhead.

Re:Small Correction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6020744)

You could also just play the game. All license, no greatness

Divorce? (0)

swat_r2 (586705) | more than 11 years ago | (#6020502)

Thea Wachowski should have waited until the trilogy was over to get a cut from the Super Extended Happy Fun Time Collectors Edition of Matrix Trilogy DVD.

I can see how this came about though. Some late night research at the local PVC/S&M bars - I mean what film director could resist all that shiny plastic on those tight bodies?

That's it? (2, Interesting)

GrandCow (229565) | more than 11 years ago | (#6020861)

I figured for the licenses to that franchise the payments would be in excess of $10 mil total.

Re:That's it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6021001)

Wasn't that game coming out in 2004? Sorry I just saw 2007 on the site that's all...

Re:That's it? (1)

Babbster (107076) | more than 11 years ago | (#6021049)

The 2007 is in reference to how long the Matrix brothers will continue to receive payments for the MMOG (their percentage of the net profits, mainly subscription fees I would imagine).

8 million dollars out the door... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6021690)

before a single line of code gets written. Anyone know how much the game cost total?

wtf? (1)

Tuxinatorium (463682) | more than 11 years ago | (#6021692)

3 million is chump change in the games industry, considering many games spend $20 million on development and sell 5 million copies priced at an average of $35...

I'll bite... (4, Informative)

Scorchio (177053) | more than 11 years ago | (#6022056)

How many games do cost $20 million to develop, and how many sell 5 million copies?

Only the tiniest percentage of games will achieve sales figures like that (eg. GTA, Warcraft, The Sims). A "successful" game will sell more than a few hundred thousand copies. You've got to be damned sure you're going to get the sales to support an investment of $3m. Fortunately - or unfortunately, depending on your point of view - a strong licence such as The Matrix almost guarantees good sales figures, even if the game itself is no better than average.

Anatomy of failure: What Killed FreeBSD (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6022359)

The End of FreeBSD

[ed. note: in the following text, former FreeBSD developer Mike Smith gives his reasons for abandoning FreeBSD]

When I stood for election to the FreeBSD core team nearly two years ago, many of you will recall that it was after a long series of debates during which I maintained that too much organisation, too many rules and too much formality would be a bad thing for the project.

Today, as I read the latest discussions on the future of the FreeBSD project, I see the same problem; a few new faces and many of the old going over the same tired arguments and suggesting variations on the same worthless schemes. Frankly I'm sick of it.

FreeBSD used to be fun. It used to be about doing things the right way. It used to be something that you could sink your teeth into when the mundane chores of programming for a living got you down. It was something cool and exciting; a way to spend your spare time on an endeavour you loved that was at the same time wholesome and worthwhile.

It's not anymore. It's about bylaws and committees and reports and milestones, telling others what to do and doing what you're told. It's about who can rant the longest or shout the loudest or mislead the most people into a bloc in order to legitimise doing what they think is best. Individuals notwithstanding, the project as a whole has lost track of where it's going, and has instead become obsessed with process and mechanics.

So I'm leaving core. I don't want to feel like I should be "doing something" about a project that has lost interest in having something done for it. I don't have the energy to fight what has clearly become a losing battle; I have a life to live and a job to keep, and I won't achieve any of the goals I personally consider worthwhile if I remain obligated to care for the project.


I'm sure that I've offended some people already; I'm sure that by the time I'm done here, I'll have offended more. If you feel a need to play to the crowd in your replies rather than make a sincere effort to address the problems I'm discussing here, please do us the courtesy of playing your politics openly.

From a technical perspective, the project faces a set of challenges that significantly outstrips our ability to deliver. Some of the resources that we need to address these challenges are tied up in the fruitless metadiscussions that have raged since we made the mistake of electing officers. Others have left in disgust, or been driven out by the culture of abuse and distraction that has grown up since then. More may well remain available to recruitment, but while the project is busy infighting our chances for successful outreach are sorely diminished.

There's no simple solution to this. For the project to move forward, one or the other of the warring philosophies must win out; either the project returns to its laid-back roots and gets on with the work, or it transforms into a super-organised engineering project and executes a brilliant plan to deliver what, ultimately, we all know we want.

Whatever path is chosen, whatever balance is struck, the choosing and the striking are the important parts. The current indecision and endless conflict are incompatible with any sort of progress.

Trying to dissect the above is far beyond the scope of any parting shot, no matter how distended. All I can really ask of you all is to let go of the minutiae for a moment and take a look at the big picture. What is the ultimate goal here? How can we get there with as little overhead as possible? How would you like to be treated by your fellow travellers?


To the Slashdot "BSD is dying" crowd - big deal. Death is part of the cycle; take a look at your soft, pallid bodies and consider that right this very moment, parts of you are dying. See? It's not so bad.

To the bulk of the FreeBSD committerbase and the developer community at large - keep your eyes on the real goals. It's when you get distracted by the politickers that they sideline you. The tireless work that you perform keeping the system clean and building is what provides the platform for the obsessives and the prima donnas to have their moments in the sun. In the end, we need you all; in order to go forwards we must first avoid going backwards.

To the paranoid conspiracy theorists - yes, I work for Apple too. No, my resignation wasn't on Steve's direct orders, or in any way related to work I'm doing, may do, may not do, or indeed what was in the tea I had at lunchtime today. It's about real problems that the project faces, real problems that the project has brought upon itself. You can't escape them by inventing excuses about outside influence, the problem stems from within.

To the politically obsessed - give it a break, if you can. No, the project isn't a lemonade stand anymore, but it's not a world-spanning corporate juggernaut either and some of the more grandiose visions going around are in need of a solid dose of reality. Keep it simple, stupid.

To the grandstanders, the prima donnas, and anyone that thinks that they can hold the project to ransom for their own agenda - give it a break, if you can. When the current core were elected, we took a conscious stand against vigorous sanctions, and some of you have exploited that. A new core is going to have to decide whether to repeat this mistake or get tough. I hope they learn from our errors.


I started work on FreeBSD because it was fun. If I'm going to continue, it has to be fun again. There are things I still feel obligated to do, and with any luck I'll find the time to meet those obligations.

However I don't feel an obligation to get involved in the political mess the project is in right now. I tried, I burnt out. I don't feel that my efforts were worthwhile. So I won't be standing for election, I won't be shouting from the sidelines, and I probably won't vote in the next round of ballots.

You could say I'm packing up my toys. I'm not going home just yet, but I'm not going to play unless you can work out how to make the project somewhere fun to be again.

= Mike


To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. -- Theodore Roosevelt

I played the game and is not that bad on XBOX (2, Informative)

josevnz (647715) | more than 11 years ago | (#6027336)

The graphic engine kind of sucks..., you definitely will find (for example) than Mortal Kombat Deadly Aliance has better 3D graphics on the XBOX.

On the other hand the game is easy to master, the difficulty level is well balanced, the cinematics complement the movie very well and it shows some details about what is going to happen on the third movie. Some missions were a little bit boring (like when you play against the agent Smith) but still the game kept me several hours playing.

Also is very cool to play against the agents on "bullet time" :).

You should follow your instincts and never trust these crappy game magazines that sometines bash good games and praise crappy games instead.

In short: if you like the movie then buy the game.

Just my two cents.


How much of that money was... (1)

arr4 (607694) | more than 11 years ago | (#6030593)

made as payment for the absolute ASS gameplay!

I have never been more dissapointed in a game experience in my life. The game is not HORRIBLE, but it is so mediocre. Neat effects but the controls are SUCKY (only 3 choices? WHY THE F@(K CANT every game atleast have the HALO controls as an option?)

Fight waves of guards, suddenly the game engine takes over and your character does somehing COOL (only you have no control)

And the driving sequences are pathetic, should never have been in the game.

I do love how the game ties in with the movie. It was so cool to see the captains meeting actually mean something in both.


Games and licenses (1)

alcharn (675533) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042653)

I think if companies spent more time on making these games amazing, not only would they save time licensing them, but a lot of money too!
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