I don't know about you, Age of Conan-faithful, but I'm a hopeless film trailer junkie. I collect them. I watch (and re-watch) them on my computer, my phone, my television, and of course, at the cinema proper. A lot of the time, trailers are substantially better than the full-length films they're meant to sell, and I've even been known to pay full price for a ticket only to walk out after the preview (particularly when said preview concerned a long-awaited prequel and was inexplicably tacked on to the front of Meet Joe Black).
Given that Conan already plays a significant role in my gaming life, I think deconstructing the recently released trailer for the upcoming film franchise reboot makes a certain sort of sense. Sadly, Massively isn't a haven for film criticism, but I'd like to get around that by doing a bit of theorizing on how the new flick could conceivably affect our favorite MMORPG.
So the trailer has everything you would expect from a summer action flick: one-liners, a leering baddie (as in a villain, not someone who doesn't know how to combo-mold), a dash of skin, a ton of violence, and was that Rose McGowan? Interestingly, the film's producers have gone after an aesthetic that will seem awfully familiar to Age of Conan players. Between shots of thick jungles, forlorn frontier outposts, and beautiful coastal waterways, the movie looks very much like Funcom's lush fantasy-scape brought to life.
Now, I know it's Conan, so I'm not really expecting high art here. However, given the spate of high-quality (or at least, high-dollar) fantasy productions in recent years, a good film isn't out of the realm of possibility. Howard's works may never be confused with great literature, but they did make for decent beach reads and occasionally presented issues worth treating seriously (barbarism and the outcast's role in a civilized society chief among them). I'm not expecting Game of Thrones, nor should you, but even a half-decent celluloid treatment of the world's most famous barbarian could conceivably raise Age of Conan's profile beyond the hardcore MMO faithful and reinvigorate Funcom's subscription base.
What's necessary to do that? Well, it would be swell if the film actually turns out to be good. Even if it's a Uwe Boll-type stinker, though, Funcom could still profit from a number of potential tie-ins.
While nothing is certain, I feel safe in saying that Funcom is planning something for the film's release. Game director and executive producer Craig Morrison hinted at this in a recent development update, and film tie-ins aren't without precedent in the MMO space. Star Wars Galaxies saw an influx of prequel-related weapons and armor during the buildup to and aftermath of 2005's Revenge of the Sith (despite the fact that the game and the film were set decades apart in what passes for Star Wars canon).
So, too, could Age of Conan introduce film-related gear or even a new instance or two inspired by the production. Whether it's raid gear drops or cosmetic items in the inevitable cash shop, the possibilities here are endless.
Also, since the Dreamworld shenanigans are over and Funcom is now focusing on new devs and content-creation tools, we could get really crazy and hope for a new zone and associated quest lines featuring a locale from the film. The plot reportedly deals with a young Conan tracking the warlord responsible for the death of his tribe across the wilds of Hyboria. Might we see Kush, the Black Kingdoms, or Hyrkania on film screens this summer?
Might we also see snippets of said places in a future Funcom game update? Crazier things have happened, that's for sure.
Funcom also would do well to advertise its MMORPG at the cinema in some fashion. Whether that advertising is via lobby posters, some sort of game-time promotion, or even a game trailer attached to prints of the film in select cinemas, this is a golden opportunity to show off Age of Conan's one-of-a-kind visuals to fantasy fans (who may not necessarily be MMO fans). Here again, it's not as far-fetched as it sounds. CCP recently released an EVE Online trailer to North American theaters, and Funcom is no doubt aware of the positive publicity that resulted.
Behold... and despair!
No matter how the film turns out, it's likely that it can only help Age of Conan in terms of awareness. Action flicks of this nature are nothing if not two-hour infomercials for their toys, games, and other product tie-ins, and even if the film is a critical disaster, the target audience (young males) will probably have their imaginations fired enough by the violence, fantasy scenery, and the scantily clad women to give the game at least a cursory glance.
While that may not help the community's maturity level in the short run, it could boost Funcom's subs (or microtransaction income) over time -- remember, we're not just talking about a theatrical release here but the home video/torrent lifespan as well.
All in all, I'm pretty excited, partially to see the sights on display in the film but moreso for the publicity opportunity it represents for Funcom. Conan has long been a strangely B-list action hero. Everyone's heard of him, of course, but rare is the individual who identifies himself as a Conan geek. Funcom's MMO is definitely the class of the license (which by this time includes 80 years of novels, comics, and games), and this is perhaps its last great opportunity to reach a huge audience.
My only real regret about the Conan movie (thus far) is that Knut Avenstroup Haugen's music won't be heard in the final cut. Haugen's themes are blockbuster material, and it would be nifty to hear them via some of sort of thunderous THX-certified sonic assault preceding the film. If that happens, well, I'll probably borrow a line from the great barbarian himself: I live, I slay play, and I am content.
Jef Reahard is an Age of Conan beta and launch day veteran, as well as the creator of Massively's weekly Anvil of Crom. Feel free to suggest a column topic, propose a guide, or perform a verbal fatality via firstname.lastname@example.org.