Who likes video game movies? According to Variety, Ubisoft has begun work on two new video game adaptations: Child of Light and Werewolves Within. Both projects are coming out of Ubisoft’s Women’s Film and Television Fellowship. The Fellowship participants, Mishna Wolff and Tasha Huo, are set to helm the scripts of a Werewolves Within movie and Child of Light TV series, respectively.
Wolff and Huo were given access to the Ubisoft vault of IP to choose their projects, and creating these pitches were part of the Fellowship from the start. Both writers note the importance of Ubisoft and the Fellowship program, which mentored and guided them through the development process, on their success.
As for the properties themselves, they don’t strike as the type of big hits Ubisoft would normally be shooting for. For those unfamiliar with the company, in the world of video game publishers, Ubisoft is kind of the Mark Wahlberg to EA’s Matt Damon. Ubisoft is not quite as big or as extravagant as EA; their profits aren’t as huge, their controversies are not the same kind of PR circus as EA’s, but they’re kind of the same flavor.
They’re both publishers of a large amount of the electronic content that hits shelves every year. While EA puts out sports games like Madden, Ubisoft typically releases a big generic game about shooting people every year or so that’s guaranteed to pull in a profit. You may know these franchises by name; Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and any video game with Tom Clancy’s name in the title.
But under the hood, Ubisoft actually funds and releases a not-insubstantial amount of independently developed, artsy, unusual games. Ubisoft is the publisher of the murder-mystery gameTransference and the cartoony climbing game Grow Home. Their IP library contains the likes of Rayman, Prince of Persia, and, yes, Child of Light and Werewolf Within.
Wolff and Huo each spoke to Variety about what attracted them to the properties, and their descriptions make it clear that these two games are nothing like the macho fare of Ubisoft’s big titles. Child of Light is an artsy platforming role-playing game with a coming of age story, and Werewolf Within is a virtual reality multiplayer game that kind of plays like the card game “Mafia” that you may have played in your school days.
For their part, Ubisoft tried to branch out into movies in 2016 with Assassin’s Creed. It… wasn’t great. It’s currently sitting at a Metacritic score of 36 and opened at barely over $10 million for a Christmas release on a $125 million budget. After such a failure, most big studios and companies would move on from the idea of creating movies based on video games.
Except this situation has a few rather unique variables. Ubisoft is not a movie studio, and Assassin’s Creed is a franchise that has more streams of revenue it can rely on. Assassin’s Creed movies may be something we can forget about in the long term, but Ubisoft seems bent on adapting properties into film and television, and their IP vault has some hidden gems in it. Even if nobody in the gaming business is interested in a sequel or reboot, the moviegoing public may not have those same hang-ups, especially since some of these game franchises existed before gaming was part of the public cultural conversation.
There’s a stigma associated with being a video game adaptation for the screen. A lot of stuff that works in one medium drags down the other, and too often filmmakers make the wrong decisions when working on these projects. But Ubisoft’s Women’s Film and Television Fellowship is bringing new talent to the fore, and giving them opportunities to develop these stories and tell them with solid financial backing and a non-interventionist creative environment.
I wouldn’t write off video game adaptations just yet, at least not Child of Light or Werewolves Within. We may find ourselves pleasantly surprised in the next few years.