Those in the film industry who have worked with video game adaptations, as well as academics and critics, have identified several reasons that such movies are not well-received.
While this doesn't necessarily mean that there will never be any good video game adaptations, the existing video game adaptations seem to have failed for one or more of these reasons.
Adaptations are chosen based on franchises that sell well, not ones that will translate well to film
"It often comes down to money, as movie studios frequently choose to make films based on the franchises that sell the best, not those with the most cinematic potential."
–Corey May, co-founder of Sekretagent Productions, which provides writing services for both films and video games (Source)
"Doing a video game movie has not really been done well, and I think part of the reason for that is it's been done for the wrong reasons," Tull told IGN. "If you simply say 'How many people have played the game? How much money can we make?' You're doomed. You're doomed right off the start."
–Thomas Tull, producer for the Warcraft video game adaptation (Source)
Games are often successful for reasons that are not applicable to film
The Hollywood machine, in its endless chase for big bucks, can't help but exploit the latest hit interactive outing, often failing to realize it's often a specific gameplay mechanic, psychological meme or technical feature that makes the title so compelling.
–Scott Steinberg, head of TechSavvy Global and founder of GameExec magazine and Game Industry TV (Source)
Translating non-linear games into a linear, three-act story is very difficult
The problem? Most film narratives follow a traditional, time-tested three-act structure, whereas videogames don't fit nicely in that mould. "Translating a non-linear narrative into a linear three-act structure is like making a song out of a painting or a sculpture," says Kjeldsen.
– Kirk Kjeldsen, assistant professor in the Cinema Department at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Vancouver (Source)
Video game adaptations are not interactive, unlike their source material
"There's a very simple reason that nearly all video game movies fail; they're not interactive," Dixon says.
"With video games, the player is really the star of the movie, directing the actors, deciding what plotline to follow--and most importantly for most games, whom to shoot down to get to the next level. When this aspect of the game is missing, viewers no longer feel like part of the action."
–Wheeler Winston Dixon, professor of film studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Source)
Film directors and writers often appeal to the audience in different ways than the video games
The issue here is that, when developing video game movies, many directors and writers try to appeal to the audience in whatever way they feel best suits them. In the case of something like Tomb Raider, that appeal came in Lara Croft’s look and gymnastic abilities, rather than the globe-trotting, puzzle-solving, and blending of history with fantasy that made the game so appealing.
This is true of other video game movies as well—Max Payne suffered heavily from a similar weighing of game aesthetics over actual plot, and it’s been a recurring problem in several of the Resident Evil films.
–Melissa Loomis, journalist for GameRant (Source)