The much-anticipated video-game version of The Godfather movie and novel will go on sale on Tuesday after a long development process that has embroiled its publisher, Electronic Arts, in a bloody saga of its own.
The Godfather was seen as a blockbuster franchise by EA when it acquired the rights and began developing the game – with the original star Marlon Brando completing voiceovers for his Don Corleone, Godfather character before his death.
But while the world’s largest video-games publisher has spent a reported $10m to $20m to recreate the New York mafia world for games consoles and the PC, it has already taken a bigger financial hit from delays to the game.
Its shares fell nearly 5 per cent last July, cutting more than $800m from the company’s value, after it warned of a delay that would make the product miss the big end-of-year holiday season.
The setback contributed to revenue warnings that saw its shares slip further.
In February, EA confirmed The Godfather would finally be released this month at the premium price of $49.95. But less than three weeks later, it changed its mind and announced a $39.95 price tag.
Like the rest of the industry, EA has been suffering from pricing pressures as consumers resist paying high prices for more limited current-generation games, now that the next-generation Xbox 360 console has appeared.
EA’s version of The Godfather for the 360 will not be ready until late this year.
The game is the most complex yet attempted by the publisher – it is the first of its “open world” games where players can take a number of different directions in the mafia environment, rather than climb through levels. It has three different endings, including one that is close to that of the original movie.
“It’s been very difficult to pull off and we’ve had one slip – from November to March – but we’ve managed to move it from being ordinary to extraordinary with the extra tuning that it needed,” David De Martini, executive producer of The Godfather, told the Financial Times.
Peer Schneider, head of content publishing at IGN, the video-game information network, said games reviewers felt The Godfather had not been fleshed out enough and EA had been under pressure to improve the product.
“EA has had a lot to prove – they have to make fans happy who like [car action game] Grand Theft Auto but also those who see it as more than an action movie. If you mess up on, say, Terminator 2, it’s not so bad, but when something is seen as one of the top-10 movies of all time, you don’t want to harm that franchise.”
The Godfather is released in North America on Tuesday and in Europe on March 24.