Electronic Arts has learned a lesson few video game studios have: if you want something done right, do it yourself.
After attempting to develop five of its properties (The Sims, Spore, Mass Effect, Army of Darkness and Dante's Inferno) through the studio system, essentially letting studios make all the creative decisions and failing every time, the company decided to take things into its own hands. Electronic Arts hired George and John Gatins and George Nolfi to develop a full Need for Speed script themselves, and only until it was good enough to go did they attempt to sell it to a studio. It was promptly picked up by DreamWorks, which then spent a much smaller amount of time tweaking the project before it got the green light. It'll now hit theaters on March 14, 2014.
Variety reports EA is looking to use this internal formula to get its Dead Space movie made. The horror/sci-fi hybrid about a lone man on a monster-infested space station has been in development hell since it was first announced over three years ago (at the time D.J. Caruso was attached to direct), but is no closer to the big screen. So now the games' company is bringing it back home. EA decided to bankroll the development of the script itself. Justin Marks (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li) helped come up with the big-screen story, Philip Gelatt (Europa Report) already has a draft turned in, and now EA is in search of another screenwriter to help push it over the finish line.
None of this guarantees that the Dead Space movie will be better for having been developed this way, but it does greatly increase its odds of ever actually getting a greenlight. As EA has learned, it expedites the process if it can bring a full script to a studio's table instead of just saying, "Hey, you guys wanna make a The Sims movie?" and letting it become one of other countless projects in the pipeline.
There is one particularly worrisome detail in Variety's report on the news. It comes from its coverage of a Comic-Con panel Marks spoke at yesterday. The topic was video game movies, and Marks (who came up with Dead Space's film plan, remember) apparently said that the key to a good video game movie was not to "faithfully replicate the action in the game on the big screen," and while that's actually a good instinct (just because it works in the game doesn't mean it'll work in the movie), what he said about Dead Space gives this fan pause.
Marks feels that if you did just replicate that action, “You would be making Event Horizon or Alien." And that's just false. Dead Space is a somewhat minimalist game, at least as far as the humans are concerned. There's no ensemble in place like there is in either of those films, so we're not entirely sure what Marks is trying to avoid. Hopefully they're not trying to solve a problem that doesn't really exist, and in doing so end up making a movie that doesn't really reflect the spirit of the actual game.