Despite the recession, video games are poised to have a great year following the record-breaking momentum of 2009. Since games cost a fraction ($10 million to $30 million) of what Hollywood spends on movies ($50 million to $500 million if you believe Avatar's reported costs), they have a better chance of succeeding if done right. Lending their talent to games also exposes actors to a huge new audience and gives them the potential to stay tapped into that audience for a much longer period of time than the average film. From Hollywood-licensed games like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Avatar to original franchises like Mass Effect 2 and Brutal Legend, more game developers are turning to Hollywood actors to bring virtual characters to life.
"Video games are more successful than films," says Shia LaBeouf, who starred in both Transformers video games. "It's just a different form of entertainment that's more of a tangible, visceral, emotional experience. Video games are emotional now. They've become cinematic, but they're filled with feeling, meaning and hope."
At the same time, the demographics of gamers has exploded over the past few years thanks to the Nintendo Wii and the iPhone.
"Video games are just in an amazing position now because people love to play them, whether they're 14 or whether they're 30... there might even be some 50 year old guys out there playing these games," says Tobin Bell, who reprised his role as Jigsaw in Zombie Studio's Saw: The Video Game. "I frequently walk into my son's room and there will be three or four guys in there playing games."
After bypassing Atari's Ghostbusters game, Sigourney Weaver went virtual for the first time with Ubisoft's Avatar game. She believes moving forward, actors should become more involved in a game's creation.
"As an actor I think we can enhance that experience for the player with what we do," says Weaver. "I think at this point people haven't taken advantage of actors (in games). We can do more than just dialogue."
One actor has done a lot more than just lend his voice to games. Vin Diesel founded Tigon Studios (The Chronicles of Riddick series, Wheelman) back in 2002. Diesel, who's hot again after Fast & Furious, has fared well in the interactive space thus far with his critically-acclaimed Chronicles of Riddick games.
"I guess I'm different from a lot of the other heads of studios in the sense that I really am a gamer, so I get to incorporate my wish list in a real way," says Diesel. "And to be in that position and to be behind-the-scenes is like a kid who loves movies, which I was, that gets to be behind-the-scenes of making movies. Needless to say, it's cool to be a part of that game-making experience."