Fox seeks revenue from mobile game as game maker Seriously eyes movie

Fox seeks revenue from mobile game as game maker Seriously eyes movie
"Best Fiends" is the first game from Seriously, a start-up based in part in Santa Monica that wants to build app-based entertainment franchises before taking them to bigger screens. (Paresh Dave)

Taking new approaches to merging movies and mobile apps, 20th Century Fox is attempting to make money off a game tied to a film, while a start-up founded by former "Angry Birds" team members is hoping its first game could someday reach the big screen.

The Fox film hitting theaters next week, "The Book of Life," is attached to the iOS game "Book of Life: Sugar Smash" (Android and Facebook versions coming). Fox doesn't just want the game to help drive people to theaters; it would like to see significant in-app purchases.


Hollywood has taken notice that the top mobile games are making hundreds of millions of dollars or more from such purchases, said Chris DeWolfe, chief executive of Beverly Hills-based SGN, which built the "Book of Life" game.

"You see the potential size of revenue that these kinds of games can contribute," the MySpace cofounder said. "Studios, networks and celebrities are thinking of it as a primary way of driving revenue."

"Book of Life" players solve increasingly harder puzzles and run into characters and funny quotations from the film along the way. It's free to play, but users can buy lives or hints to maintain momentum.

SGN had an idea of what kind of game it wanted to build, then searched for a film that could attract users. The deal with Fox came together within weeks, and building the game took less than six months because the movie studio provided the art and animation. DeWolfe said he hoped about a third of SGN games will be forged in a similar manner.

The revenue share between SGN and the intellectual property owner essentially replaces what SGN would have spent trying to market the games on its own, DeWolfe said.

Seriously, a start-up with offices in Santa Monica and Helsinki, Finland, is coming from the opposite direction. On Thursday, the company unveiled the iOS puzzle game "Best Fiends." It's the first of what the company hopes is a three-game series that becomes so popular that a movie based on it is a no-brainer success.

"We're doing Hollywood backward," Chief Executive Andrew Stalbow said.

Stalbow and cofounder Petri Jarvilehto both worked at Rovio, the Finnish company behind "Angry Birds." When Rovio built "Angry Birds Rio" as a tie-in to the Fox film "Rio," Stalbow said exit polls showed that the game was the main advertising driver among the key demographic group.

Because mobile apps provide a direct connection to a global audience, each of the major studios will be launching some new titles as games before film within the next five years, Stalbow said.

In "Best Fiends," players attempt to capture mischievous characters and help them evolve by solving puzzles. In-app purchases help players who are stuck or desire a quick boost. There's an overarching good-versus-ominous-force story line that's designed to be cinematic: The unlikely band of heroish characters is trying to free their families from the Slugs of Mount Boom.

Heitor Pereira, a composer who worked on "Despicable Me," made the game's music, which is available on iTunes and Beats Music.

"Best Fiends" also has a form of branded content. To support the charity Malaria No More, a mosquito character in the game named Edward drinks coconut water instead of blood.

"Ashamed of his family's bloodsucking past, this sensitive and romantic chap has sworn off blood and gets by on a diet of coconut water, which he carries around on his back like scuba gear," Seriously says.

Seriously is supported by about $5 million in funding from Upfront Ventures, Sunstone Capital and Daher Capital.


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