EXCLUSIVE: Minecraft, one of the hottest video game franchises in the market today, is going to be made into a major motion picture. Warner Bros. just acquired the rights to the wildly popular game from Swedish indie developer Mojang AB (mojang means “gadget” in Swedish). The property already is getting huge interest from writers and filmmakers as Warners is putting together a live-action version. Roy Lee is going to produce Minecraft via his Vertigo Entertainment production company along with Jill Messick (Mean Girls and Mean Moms) who will also produce in some capacity. Lee produced the megahit The Lego Movie with Dan Lin which launched a franchise for Warner Bros and a sequel is planned. Jon Berg is the executive in charge at the studio. CAA brokered the deal for the film rights.
Minecraft is one of the top five “open world”-type games, in which players can engage in a virtual world, creating any environment they can dream up with virtual blocks. It often is described as a “open sandbox” where the users can build anything they want. Minecraft has become an Internet sensation since its introduction in 2011. I know, gamers out there will point out that the beta version was introduced in 2009 and were invited to buy and play the game before it was finished — which was a smart move by Mojang because the players basically became the company’s test market and helped develop the game itself. (It didn’t hurt their bank account either).
The studio is wisely tapping into what could become another Lego monster or bigger as Minecraft has just passed over 100M users and has been downloaded to 14.3M PCs. From a marketing standpoint, the property cuts across all demos in terms of popularity. The game is very much like the world we saw in The Lego Movie as master builders constructed what they needed as they needed. Depending on how they develop the property, they could see Lego-like results or a Super Mario Brothers disaster (which was based on a linear platform video game).
The animated The Lego Movie has grossed a whopping $187M domestically and $93.5M so far in international markets for a total worldwide cume of $280.5M in only its third weekend out.
In the Minecraft game, players create their own avatar and use cubes to create, build, and destroy structures and other forms across multiple game modes and various players. When you first begin the game, the player is dropped into the middle of nowhere and must build out a world of their own, but monsters can come out at any time and you must survive the night. According to GameSpot, the XBox version already has sold over 10 million copies. In terms of popularity, it now ranks up there with Tetris.
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There has been a parade of movies based on video games released over the years or in production. Need For Speed, which arrives in theaters next month via Disney, is based on the Eletronic Arts title, and Legendary Pictures and Atlas Entertainment, for instance, are working on the feature film adaptation of Warcraft, based on another popular video game, which will be released via Universal in 2016. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and the Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat series also were based on video titles.