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How MachineGames’ Indiana Jones project can make the franchise relevant again

Let’s not beat around the bush: Nobody was particularly excited about the idea of another Indiana Jones movie. Sure, the earlier films were swashbuckling adventures that still have a loyal following…but The Last Crusade released more than 30 years ago.

After the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the franchise fell into a tough spot. The original trilogy was struggling to stay relevant in an era of superhero blockbusters. And the fourth film — a clear attempt to modernize the series — failed to attract a new audience while simultaneously disappointing long-time fans.

After that, everyone’s favorite treasure-hunting archaeologist sort of fell by the wayside.

But now that Disney has control of the Indiana Jones license, it’s clear that the “untapped potential” was enough to try again. And to double down on that attempt, Disney has also agreed to let MachineGames (a critically acclaimed developer) create an Indiana Jones video game in partnership with Lucasfilm.

Is this another attempt to introduce a new, younger audience to Indiana Jones? Or build a little extra excitement around the franchise before the upcoming 2022 film? Or maybe it’s what fans hope to see: A smart move that will make the series relevant again.

Before we dive deep into how a video game could help restore the Indiana Jones franchise, let’s get nerdy with some numbers and see exactly how big video games are these days.

Gaming Is Bigger Than Hollywood

Yup, you read that right. And nope, it’s not a clickbait headline. 

It seems like the popularity of video games took off overnight. Right now, gaming is the single most powerful force in the entertainment world, so it makes sense that Disney would be open to licensing out Indiana Jones and seeing if a game might help the series.

And just how valuable are video games, you ask? The industry was valued at $151.55 billion in 2019, and conservative estimates predict that number will skyrocket to $300 billion by 2027.

Compare that to the global film industry, which just hit $100 billion for the first time in 2019. Even if you add that amount to the combined value of all North American sports (estimated at around $75 billion) that only barely manages to compete with the gaming industry.

What does that have to do with Indiana Jones? Well, for starters, we’ve seen an entire generation of people who have no attachment to Indiana Jones. And in many cases, these people have never seen the whip-cracking scoundrel in action or heard John Williams’ magnificent theme.

But one thing this generation does have an attachment to is gaming. The numbers we just went over were taken before COVID-19 forced the world into quarantine for a year. It’s safe to assume any predictions about video game sales have only skyrocketed since then, while many other industries saw a significant drop in revenue.

Perfect Timing For A True Indy Game

Oddly enough, we’re seeing a perfect opportunity for Indiana Jones to swing into the spotlight. And, if done right, a good game could restore the franchise to its former greatness.

In the past 20 years, both the Uncharted and Tomb Raider games told stories about treasure hunting heroes. And for most of that time, the film industry pivoted away from that genre. But those two game franchises are on ice while the developers focus on new projects.

Meanwhile, Hollywood rebooted the Tomb Raider films and is set to finally deliver the long-awaited Uncharted film in 2022. That means two successful game franchises (that clearly drew inspiration from Indiana Jones) are taking a break, and trying to leverage their popularity onto big screens.

That opens a window for MachineGames to basically do the opposite. By taking advantage of an established and influential hero, the studio’s Indiana Jones game could fill that gaming niche, excite long-time Indy fans, and even attract a whole new generation of people to the franchise.

(It’s also worth mentioning some details about the development team. MachineGames made its name with the modern Wolfenstein games, where players fight to overthrow Nazis in an alternate history setting. The concept of fighting Nazis is a clear connection, and the Wolfenstein games’ sense of dark humor and witty banter could translate well to Indy.)

Skepticism Around The Film Franchise

However, the worry about another Indy film involves a lot of factors from a lot of different people. For starters, it’ll be the first movie since Disney purchased Lucasfilm, which means new leadership. It’s also a sequel to everyone’s least favorite entry in the series.

Oh, and it’s the first installment from a director whose last name isn’t “Spielberg.” 

Now any one of those things could be enough to make fans worry, and for good reason. Giving a team in a completely different industry the freedom to tinker with that franchise doesn’t help either, especially when movie tie-in games have almost universally stunk.

But let’s be honest: The current era of video game development has come a long way from the movie tie-ins we got in the early 2000s. You could say the same about movies based on games, too. There’s never been a truly successful one-to-one translation between mediums.

For all of those reasons, there’s a healthy amount of skepticism about Indiana Jones’ future. But this new project from MachineGames isn’t going to be a cheesy tie-in game or a prequel to prepare us for the movie.

In fact, the project is slated to get more support than any other film franchise adaptation. MachineGames was acquired by Microsoft earlier this year, which means the developer will have the time and resources to build something great. And that should help the franchise regain its cultural relevance, regardless of how the 2022 film does in the box office.

Predicting The Game’s Direction

This article wouldn’t do Indiana Jones justice if it didn’t dive into the clues and rumors surrounding the upcoming video game.

The important thing to start with is that the game will not be an adaptation of the upcoming movie, or any sort of tie-in to the “modern” films. That means it’s targeting the era of the original and beloved trilogy from Spielburg and Lucas.

At this point, our only real information we have is a teaser trailer. But a picture is worth a thousand words, and this video is 33 seconds. That’s like, 800 frames, so a lot of “pictures.”

We already know the game will tell a new story, which is why studying the trailer for Easter eggs is so valuable. It’s hard to tell if the clutter on Indy’s desk are nods to the series history or a tease of the game’s story.

The presence of the Grail Diary suggests it’ll take place after The Last Crusade, and the Vatican City map indicates a location. Then again, the ticket to Rome is dated 1937, which would place the game before The Last Crusade

In ither words, there’s not much to move forward with besides picking out small details from that brief teaser. But as the industry continues to wait for more information on MachineGames’ project, that simmering excitement will only raise everyone’s awareness about both the game and the franchise.

Again, leveraging that sort of project puts Indiana Jones in front of millions of people who have never carried a bullwhip around, bought a replica hat, or even seen Indy in action.

That sort of marketing might even win over some of the fans who were burned by The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And if the game receives the same Game of the Year accolades as MachineGames’ past projects, it’s clear that Indiana Jones will have found a new audience and made huge steps in regaining his status as among Hollywood’s greatest action heroes.

Drew Gula is a copywriter at Soundstripe, a royalty free music company that provides content creators with a range of background music for their videos. He’s also a lifelong gamer and Indy fan who is keeping his fingers crossed that MachineGames delivers on its potential.



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