MOBYLIVES, the blog for small press Melville House, has their own detailed analysis of the situation, which I think is right on the money. Essentially, MOBYLIVES thinks it's a great idea, but is not sure that Random House is going about it in the right way.
Enhanced e-books, which will probably begin to flood the market this year, would be a great way for publishers to diversify themselves from self-published books. Right now, the only thing that's really doing that is how cheap self-published books are (that's what got Amanda Hocking on the USA Today bestseller list and how she landed that 2 million dollar deal last month). If publishers can find a way to make their e-books unique, beautiful, and well-developed - the same exact things that have separated self-published books from traditional books - then they have a chance of beating back the self-published hoarde that seems to be growing every day.
But I have to admit, I'm skeptical about Random House's reasonings for this partnership. Basically, they're going to get a hot book, pour 35 million into game development (including 12 million for marketing), and then hope for a TV or movie deal. Seriously, that's what their rep said. In other words, who gives a crap about the book, as long as we get a video game and movie out of it.
It's only interesting to note that in an age when video games and other multimedia experiences are becoming more creative and artistically driven (have you seen the storylines in some these games?), publishers are becoming less. Their focus is on getting game and movie deals. That's something I simply don't understand, and I'm actually talking from a business prospective here, not as a writer.
If publishers are so concerned with developing only properties that are screen-viable, then they're not actually looking at the products they're putting out there on the market for their own value. A good book should be a good book - not a book that's going to be a movie. It's like a self-defeating prophecy, because Random House wants books to make movies, because there's more money there. The books they put out then, kind of suck because they're not actually good books, as the editors are looking for the wrong things. And then those books don't sell, because they suck.
Even with a movie, probably especially with it, word of mouth and the internet will get a hold of the fact that the movie did whatever but the book still sucks. Slowly, Hollywood will realize Random House makes crappy books and stop working with them, because crappy books have a better chance of making crappy movies.
They're essentially diluting their own product's quality, and that's simply not a smart way to run a business - especially in a set-up where they'd always be reliant on other companies (the movie-makers) to make them money. It's an entirely foolish way to work.