The Jurassic Park IP is one of the biggest money earners for Universal Studios. Jurassic World, released in 2015 was the third highest grossing film, receiving over $1.6 billion in Box Office revenues. But unknown to most is the fact that Jurassic World was originally envisioned as a game, and not a blockbuster movie.
The story starts with Seamus Blackley who is best known for designing the original Xbox console back in 2001. Seamus was off to a good start after shipping a hit game in 1995. Unfortunately his next project, Trespasser, a sequel to the 1997 film The Lost World: Jurassic, turned out to be a train wreck. The game incorporated a physics engine that was ahead of it’s time, but didn’t have much else going for it, and consequently failed to make an impact.
…on Xbox I learned that the thing stopping great games from happening (early 2000s) was financing, so I confounded a game finance company and was sucked into CAA, the mammoth talent agency, where they promised to teach me the dark arts of STRUCTURED FINANCE FOR ENTERTAINMENT…
Seamus then moved on to videogame financing and tied up with the Creative Artists Agency.
As it turns out, Steven Spielberg was also a CAA client at that point, and both Seamus and Spielberg would often see each other over the next few years. Eventually, sometime around the 2010s, Spielberg decided to relaunch the Jurassic Park franchise, after the original JP trilogy had ended in 2001. So Seamus was asked to work on a new Jurassic Park game pitch for Spielberg, as the studio heads decided it was best to relaunch the franchise with a game release. In fact the trailer that was put together for Spielberg and other studio heads was leaked on YouTube, which you can watch here.
Alas, it couldn’t save the game. Steven “loved” (according to Kathy) the trailer. The story was approved. We started hiring devs.
Then the co-president of Universal left, everything was scrambled, and the next thing I knew, I was sending all our art assets to Frank Marshall…
Unfortunately as we all know, the game never materialized. Its hard to pin point why the studio eventually didn’t move ahead with the game, but the financial crisis of 2008 was definitely one of the key reasons. After the 2008 meltdown, General Electric, the then owners of NBC Universal were struggling, and the company decided to sell majority shares of NBC Universal to Comcast. After the deal, Comcast revamped NBC Universal’s management. Most likely the new management was more comfortable with a new movie than a game, as the latter could be a riskier move, and a bad game could end up hurting the movie as well.
…who is also a fantastic person, who is the nicest guy in Hollywood. There was a movie in the works, and the cancellation of the game meant they got everything. Honestly this was the best outcome possible.
So. I’m sure you want to see more; the storyboards, the amazing art…
Fortunately for Seamus, all that work wasn’t in vain as the studio decided to take all their original work for the game and use it for the movie, Jurassic World, as we know it today. Also a big shout-out to Seamus Blackley himself, for sharing this interesting tit-bit of entertainment history. You can read his original twitter thread here.