Pop-Culture Predictions #1

Hi, I'm Drew, a big nerd who happens to run a hybrid marketing and production company. I lead content and brand strategy and use data to build insights that inform our clients' business decisions. In this weekly series, I'm going to pick a couple of pop-culture IPs and make a bold prediction based on past experience, real-time data, and a boatload of moxie. Here we go...

Prediction - The Uncharted movie will underperform in ticket sales.

I want to be wrong here. I'm a big fan of the games, and I think the world could use a fun, light-hearted adventure film. But no one is talking about Uncharted online, and it looks like it is destined to underperform. Take Tom Holland's last tentpole film Spider-Man: No Way Home. If you do just a simple Google Trends analysis on searches for Spider-Man vs. Uncharted, the differences are striking. Uncharted is basically flatline compared to Spider-Man. Even at its highest search peak in October (see chart below), Uncharted still didn't match Spider-Man. More surprising is that even after the Uncharted trailer drop, the peak is still lower than October's search. Interest seems to be going down, not skyrocketing up as Spider-Man clearly did when that film launched.

According to the New York Times, the Uncharted movie reportedly cost $120 million to make. So this needs an opening weekend of over $90 million and have enough legs overseas to warrant a sequel. In comparison, before No Way Home's insane $260 million opening haul, Venom had the highest pandemic opening weekend at $90.1 million.

Uncharted Interest vs Spider-Man Interest over the last 5 years

Bottom Line: Uncharted needs an incredible marketing push in these last few weeks to drive an insane amount of buzz towards this film to drive people to theaters. Otherwise, I suspect people are Tom Holland-ed out and are willing to wait till this hits the streaming services in 90 days.

Prediction - God of War Ragnarök will not release in 2022.

God of War Ragnarök was originally announced to be released in 2021 (note, it wasn't) and is now rumored to be releasing in September of 2022. Let me be clear: there is no way this game comes out in 2022. COVID variants will continue to plow through the vaccinated and non-vaccinated developers who will need to take weeks off to recover, slowing the production of these AAA game titles down to a crawl. The good news is this can often lead to a slower pace and better working environment for devs and writers alike. It will likely be pushed from September to late November before finally letting everyone know that this will be a March 2023 release. Overall, more than 40 games were delayed last year. Here's a quick list of some of the bigger games that got delayed in 2021:

Bottom Line: COVID isn't going away, and, for the foreseeable future, it will continue to have a tremendous effect on game studios' ability to deliver on their promised launch windows.

Prediction - Xbox will sell more consoles than PlayStation in 2022.

Sorry, Sony, but this next generation might belong to Microsoft. I personally believe that Sony, and specifically PlayStation, makes better hardware that plays nice with more developers. But Xbox understands gamers better. Their Game Pass is a far superior fishing lure to get gamers to switch to Xbox and stay there, with constant access to new games for no extra cost. Couple that with the smart pricing structure on the elite Series X and the cheaper Series S console, and it looks like Xbox might have a winner on its hands. You can see in the chart below that in the last 12 months more people in the US have searched for Xbox over PlayStation by a large margin, especially during the holiday season. The big X-factor here (pun intended) is the global chip shortages and Microsoft's ability to get their next-gen consoles into people's homes faster. The demand is there for both platforms, but the delays in availability may make people choose to buy whichever next-gen console is available once they've got the saved up cash to buy.

Search interest of Playstation vs Xbox over the last 12 months.

Bottom Line: Halo Infinite, Xbox Game Pass, Smart Pricing, and better advertising are clearly winning the day for Microsoft and Xbox in terms of interest but supply issues may make this a closer race than it appears.

I'll be back every few weeks with some more predictions. The value of a prediction is not accuracy (though it is better to be right than wrong), but the reasoning and conversation that the prediction catalyzes. Let me know if you think I'm right or wrong in the comments below!

The Uncharted Cargo Plane Fight Scene Released

Like it or not the Uncharted movie is happening and it's using an action set piece right out of the Uncharted video game series the film is based on. Sony decided to just go ahead and release the whole cargo plane fight scene since most fans have played that scene several times in the third game and the trailers released so far pretty much spoiled the scene already as well. Take a look for yourself...

For reference here's the cargo plane scene from the game narrated by Nolan North (the actor and voice of Nathan Drake in the games) and Amy Hennig (the creator and game director of Uncharted 1 - 3).

In comparison to the game, you can see the film has changed this scene's beats quite a bit. Right away we see that Drake is in a tight spot and needs to cause a scene. So he does what Drake does and pulls the cargo ripcord. Then Mark Wahlberg (Sully) parachutes off the plane right when Drake pulls the cargo cord. Which seems odd out of context. Didn't Sully see that Drake wasn't wearing a parachute? Why would he bail on his buddy Drake?

After that moment we see some nice flips and a lucky escape from Drake before he's pulled out of the cargo plane with his foot caught in a box net. Here's where the film starts to depart from the game not only in action beats but in world psychics. In the game, you can see Drake really struggling to hold on to the cargo nets. In fact, his feet are blowing upwards from the wind speed. It looks and feels like it would be pretty difficult to climb back in the plane. The movie scene on the other hand feels like it was shot on a green screen with a mild wind machine. The fact that Drake is able to leap upside down from one crate to another is probably impossible in this situation. Unless... due to the wind displacement from the rear of the plane causes the wind to go around the crates. I'm not an aerospace engineer but I doubt this is the case but maybe there's someone who can set the record straight here.

This scene is still a lot of fun and we get to see Chloe be the badass we know her to be and likely will save Drake and Sully's ass more than once in this film. My hope is that this scene was edited down for this clip a bit. Not only does it feel a bit all over the place in pacing, but there are also moments that are in the earlier trailers that are not in this edit. Which doesn't mean much since trailer scenes don't always make the film's final cut but I do hope the scene is longer in the film and there is an edit that shows the bad guys climbing out on the cargo crates vs just appearing out of nowhere in the current edit now.

Uncharted comes out exclusively in movie theaters February 18th. Despite my nitpicks, I'll be there with bells on to see this in the biggest loudest theater I can find.

What do y'all think of this cargo plane clip they released? Did it make you more excited or are you still on the fence?

Celebrating 25 Years and Why It's Always Time to CRASH!

Long hailed as the craziest Bandicoot to ever spin onto the screen, Crash Bandicoot has stolen the hearts of gamers everywhere regardless of age or play history. Naughty Dog first conceptualized Crash as Willie the Wombat, but he soon evolved into the lovable, fearless mascot we see today. He’s raced for Wumpa Fruit in several games now, including his original N. Sane Trilogy and Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, to name a few. Just recently, he whirled back onto gaming platforms with Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. Accompanied by both devious villains and spirited side characters, Crash has claimed his spot in our consoles for years to come!

The N. Sane Life of Crash Bandicoot (Naughty Dog)

Select this image to open it in a new tab where you can zoom in to read the details.

CRASH COURSE: THE (MAIN) STORY SO FAR

For those who haven’t been keeping up with this super-charged marsupial, Crash has been on a host of adventures. In his first installment, the dastardly villain Dr. Neo Cortex wanted to create a genetically engineered animal to do his bidding and as he strove to—you guessed it—take over the world. Crash not only foils Cortex’s nefarious plan but also helps save his girlfriend and the animals. When Cortex returns in Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, he may be out to save the world instead of doom it. Players discover whether Cortex is to be trusted or if it’s yet another fiendish experiment. But never fear because our favorite Bandicoot gets right back to his wild antics again in Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped for a time-traveling adventure that sees all-new gameplay, free-roaming, and even a baby T-rex. 

So, where do we stand with the story now?

Crash's fourth game, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, rocketed onto the scene in October 2020. Neo Cortex and Dr. N. Trope have escaped an interdimensional prison, and in the process, left an evil scientist-sized hole in the universe. They’re on a mission to conquer dimensions, and it’s up to Crash and his sister CoCo to save the multiverse in this direct sequel to the original trilogy! 

THE ALLURE OF N. SANITY

Unarguably one of the best things about the Crash Bandicoot franchise is how it bridges generations through pure fun. The iconic character first appeared in 1996, and he has featured in regular installments since. This makes these games both fresh and nostalgic, a rare combination that’s seldom seen with the array of fresh new titles we’ve seen lately. 

Not to mention, with a long-standing story such as this one, this fourth installment provides a fantastic opportunity to create new shared experiences with our loved ones. Crash Team Racing is an obvious go-to for team play, but let’s be honest; sometimes friendly competition can quickly turn into a volley of profanity that would make The Wolf of Wall Street blush, amiright? 

Just me? Oh. Moving on, then...

The Crash games are more than just a good time. When my friend bought the N. Sane Trilogy for my mom, she took up the controller the first chance she got, and she's been playing religiously ever since. I’ve never seen her this happy with a game; while she has played a variety of titles like The Last of Us, MediEvil, and Ratchet & Clank, she adores this rich gameplay experience. It’s been her goal to fully complete every level before moving on to the next, and she’s poised to finish the first game soon. In fact, whenever she’s about to play, she always tells us she’s “going to CRASH!”

As a huge Uncharted fan myself, fellow gamers may know that Uncharted 4 has a portion where you can play Crash Bandicoot. With the interwoven history between these two games, it’s been so much fun being able to chat about the different levels she reaches, share Naughty Dog history, and marvel at how the developers have kept a few core elements of gameplay alive at the heart of their projects over the years. For instance, some similar stylistic choices are noticeable in the Uncharted games, such as the portion where Nathan Drake is running toward the camera away from oncoming danger. This vaguely mirrors the sequence of Crash we play in Uncharted 4, and it's somewhat replicated when Nathan and Elena are narrowly escaping explosions in the same game. 

These are just a few examples of how this bright orange speed demon can bring all gamers together, and can also offer a lot of insight into how game structure and development has grown over the years while remaining true to its origins.   

WHY CRASH STANDS OUT

So, why is Crash so much fun? Well, without taking too much of a deep dive, there’s a host of psychological reasons these games are so addicting. For one, games with Crash Bandicoot’s structure appeal to our competitive nature. They are also vibrant and stylized, yet genuinely difficult. Ask any adult who ever picked up a controller thinking these were a "kid’s game" and couldn’t get past the first ten minutes. Gamers are encouraged to find gems, best their personal times, and more. Combine that with an unrelenting obstacle course and the knowledge that one mistake may have you starting over (sometimes from the very beginning), and you’ve got a nail-biting adventure. 

The Evolution of Crash

In the mobile endless runner Crash Bandicoot: On the Run, a similar need to achieve a perfect dash also fuels the likes of Temple Run, Sonic Dash, and Sonic Dash 2: Sonic Boom. Plus, the Crash franchise reminds many gamers of their childhood because while the graphics, mechanics, and art has evolved, the essence and spirit of the character remain the same. It’s like a time portal you can plug into and escape for a while. Can you even imagine what would happen if Crash were like the movie Jumanji? (If you’ve never seen it, the TL;DR of it is that a mysterious and magical game has begun, and wild shenanigans ensue.)

Lastly, video gaming can also be very stress-relieving. According to Kabir Lal, the community manager at healthygamer.gg, "when we play a video game and enjoy it, our brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine." When this dopamine release occurs, it essentially helps us feel good. While I personally don’t consider highly action-packed games something I would call relaxing, I can certainly attest that they're exciting, and when I'm able to play my favorites, it makes for a fantastic afternoon. Besides, I always appreciate how they encourage increased attention to detail, precision, and perseverance. At the end of the day, if you love what you play and it inspires you to be the best you can be, it can certainly make a positive difference overall.

A QUARTER-CENTURY OF ADVENTURE

With all this creativity, joy, and science propelling him forward, our charismatic Crash is celebrating an entire quarter-century of smashing through every obstacle in his path! In a recent video, Toys for Bob discuss the franchise so far and also tease more information to come:

Avid fans may interpret the message at the end of this video to mean that while Activision hasn’t announced plans for another upcoming Crash Bandicoot title, Lodato might be hinting that may change. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time also includes the option to upgrade to the PlayStation 5 version for some gamers, with special instructions for those who own a disc copy.  

WHY IT’S ALWAYS TIME TO "CRASH!"

Whether you've been playing Crash Bandicoot since his inception, are just jumping on board, or are such a huge fan that you routinely get lost in the Crash Bandicoot Reddit or the Original Game Soundtrack, it will always be a blast to crank up your console and spend a few hours running off the stress of the day. With a memorable cast of supporting characters, crisp new graphics, and butter-smooth controls, it's never been more fun to tornado through boxes, collect Wumpa Fruit, and try your hand at finding every Gem location possible. So, can we agree that no matter where you fit into the franchise, it's always time to CRASH!?

Have you played any of the Crash installments? How will you be celebrating his silver anniversary? Share your experiences in the comments!

Crash and Coco (Naughty Dog)

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