Mention the name Gary Bracey to clued-up members of Gen X and watch their brow furrow as they endeavor to pinpoint the name. Throw in the huge clue “Ocean Software” and watch the realization dawn on their face as they are thrust back to a childhood spent immersed in games such as Robocop, Batman, The Untouchables and Addams Family. In the 80s and 90s, Ocean could do no wrong and was much loved by C64, Amiga, and SNES diehards.
Bracey headed the software company’s games development department, which was responsible for some of the biggest hits and milestones in videogame history . Few figures have done more than Gary Bracey to unite the kingdoms of movies and gaming, which were once isolated entities, each pursuing their own orbit. Today, movie and gaming tie-ins are ubiquitous, but it wasn’t always that way. Bracey has since moved on from Ocean, but his penchant for inking licensing deals with major movie studios hasn’t abated. He’s now doing the same for Terra Virtua, a marketplace for trading and exhibiting digital collectibles.
The Art of the Deal
In today’s high definition world of hyper-realistic video games, playable footage is often indistinguishable from the movie on which it’s based – and not just because an increasing portion of all movies is now green-screened and digitally manipulated. It’s now equally common to see movies borrowing from video games (Tomb Raider; World of Warcraft) instead of the other way around.
In the 1980s, though, it was a different story. Movies still looked like, well, movies while video games, by today’s standards, looked like crap. Convincing movie studios to license their blockbusters to be recreated in pixelated 8-bit was a big ask. Bracey had the ability to persevere where other software bosses floundered, however, and a string of licensed titles followed as Ocean partnered with the big Hollywood studios, the first of which was Paramount Studios, acquiring the license to recreate the Top Gun movie in video game format.
Almost 35 years later, and Bracey finds himself going full circle, having obtained the licensing rights for Top Gun – and its long-overdue sequel – to create digital collectibles using Terra Virtua. Together with the Pacific Rim franchise, exclusive Top Gun imagery has been released as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that enable assets to be freely traded and displayed in a range of virtual environments.
Build It and They Will Come
As Gary Bracey acknowledges, building Terra Virtua was challenging. The project was formed in 2017, but has undergone a pivot in the years since, as the blockchain industry has evolved, the NFT space in particular. “Overcome by excitement and optimism for bringing a new concept to the digital world we did not anticipate the numerous hurdles and issues that lay ahead, despite our collective decades of experience in the commercial world,” he recalls.
Bracey and founding partner Jawad Ashraf persevered, however, and this year the platform launched in beta. In its new incarnation, it forms an ambitious ecosystem for displaying and interacting with digital collectibles, granting utility and immersiveness to once static images. A soft launch saw Terra Virtua place its first licensed collection, for The Godfather movies, up for sale on NFT marketplace OpenSea. The demand for the limited edition images, which saw 85% of the portfolio snapped up in the first week, convinced Bracey that he was onto something.
Deals with major players such as Paramount, Legendary, and numerous others have followed, and Pacific Rim collectibles are next in the pipeline. Despite Gary Bracey’s success in delivering licensed games, they are not guaranteed to be a home run. Atari’s IP of E.T. was a memorable flop, and thousands of the cartridges were famously buried in the New Mexico desert. The worst that can happen to digital collectibles, in comparison, is that nobody buys them – and so far demand appears to be outstripping supply. And with Terra Virtua pioneering new ways to display and interact with collectibles, their appeal is only set to grow. Should that prove to be the case, it will be thanks in no small part to the man who was there from the beginning.