December 15, 2013 10:10:21
Posted By Sim@CanDevs
Perhaps no video game better traced the evolving landscape of video game development in the late 1990s and onward than Tomb Raider, which grew from a 1996 third-person shooter designed for the Sega Saturn, PlayStation and PC, into a cultural phenomenon. Featuring female adventurer Laura Croft at its center, the original Tomb Raider was an immediate smash, credited with helping to sell over 100-million PlayStation consoles. In a fascinating way, the game quickly transcended the video game world, with Lara Croft gracing the covers of TIME and Newsweek in the years that followed.
Four more annual Tomb Raider games were released by Core Design following the success of the original, creating a buzz that eventually drew Hollywood’s attention. The result was a pair of Tomb Raider films, staring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, released in 2001 and 2003. Those movies, paired with comic books, novels, animated short series and much more helped transform Tomb Raider from a legend in the video gaming industry into a pop culture icon. The game was among the first to make this transformation on such a massive scale, and is still producing new editions.
The franchise set the bar for video game licensing, opening a number of new revenue streams for developers to convert upon a hit game. Some of the biggest streams include:
Movies/DVDs - Obviously, there is a lot of money to be made in Hollywood. The two Tomb Raider movies, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, made more than $430-million at the box office worldwide combined, all while helping the video game franchise boost its profile and likely sell countless more video game titles.
Merchandise - Another great way for companies to make money of their gaming franchises is through merchandising. By putting Lara Croft on t-shirts, hats, television ads for Visa and Lucozade drinks and much more, Eidos Interactive (now Square Enix Europe) was able to generate millions in extra revenue.
Licensing to casino software companies - One of the more unique revenue streams is licensing to casino software companies. A number of popular series - both movies and video games - have been transformed into casino software game. A license for Tomb Raider was specifically bought by Microgaming, one the biggest casino software companies creating a successful 5-reel video slot based upon the game.
Amusement parks - Tomb Raider also made a pretty penny by licensing its rights to six Paramount Parks, with three Tomb Raider-themed rides opening around the world. Later, the franchise supported the Tomb Raider: The Machine ride at Movieland Studios in Italy, and also boasted the indoor Tomb Raider: The Ride at Kings Island until 2008.
One of the more difficult questions to answer when it comes to Tomb Raider is whether the game grew to such iconic status because of the effectiveness of the licensing, or whether the game was simply so popular that a great pop culture presence was bound to follow. Certainly, a lot of the franchise’s popularity outside the gaming sphere came from good planning. Angelina Jolie was a rising star in 2001, and using her as the face to bring the franchise into Hollywood aided the process immensely.
That said, what really sold the Tomb Raider franchise was Lara Croft. A strong, sexy female lead, Croft was a new sort of hero for the traditionally male-dominated video game world. Her presence at the forefront of such a popular game is what drew mass attention - thus her placement on TIME and Newsweek covers. Her, and probably Tomb Raider’s placement as the first major PlayStation game, is what really drove the franchise into rarified air.