It is well known there have been quite a few product tie ins associated some of Steven Spielberg’s films over the years and even an instance of product placements. No denying there have been merchandising blitzes associated with E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. And of course, the Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park franchises. Yet a lot of the merchandising involving Indiana Jones can be blamed on Spielberg’s longtime best friend and creative partner, George Lucas. Although this does not mean Spielberg cannot have an eye for, or an interest in, the merchandising aspect of promoting his films. For better or worse, two examples can be found in E.T.
Steven Spielberg tried to strike a product placement deal with Skittles for inclusion in the film. They were not interested. Instead, he approached Reese’s for inclusion of their Reese’s Pieces product. They obliged and sales for Reese’s Pieces skyrocketed after the release of the film. E.T. is also the subject of another merchandising phenomenon, one that was not so well received. Atari bought the video game rights to the film and proposed a very complex idea with the goal of the game being E.T. having to phone home to those on his home planet with many obstacles in his way. Spielberg was not high on this concept and felt moviegoers and video game enthusiasts alike would prefer a much simpler game similar to the very successful Pac-Man. Yet they instead went with the former idea instead of the latter and the result was considered the worst video game of all time. It was one of the major factors in the video game crash of 1983, the reason for Atari’s financial losses into 1984, and possibly why they stopped releasing games on their own console and began producing games for others for years afterward.
So, it can go either way. While Spielberg is not too big into merchandising his films (at least not compared to George Lucas). Yet those who are willing to throw away money for the sake of cashing in one of Spielberg’s movies might be very disappointed while one who listens to his ideas and is faithful to the film’s material might release of the best products available.