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When news broke a few weeks ago that director Gore Verbinski was abandoning the next installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise to make Bioshock, most thought the film would be fast tracked. Now though, it’s all on hold.

Variety reports that production on the film has stalled, due to disagreements over the budget. Universal has gone so far as to start laying off production staff, hired to work on the film.

In short, Verbinski’s latest budget estimates have risen, putting the cost of making the film at $160 million. At that price, Universal is suddenly less interested in getting it done. That doesn’t mean they aren’t making it, word is that Universal and Verbinski are looking for ways to cut costs. Shooting in London for instance, may be an option. Verbinski still insists they’re making it, but for now though, the movie’s on hold.

Bioshock is based on a noir-like videogame about an underwater, reto-future city. For anyone who’s played the game, it’s probably no surprise that making it could be pretty expensive. It’s hard not to think about the budget troubles which killed Peter Jackson’s attempt to make Halo. There too the problem was simply cost, studios aren’t willing to invest top dollar in video game based movies since to date, no video game based movie has actually made all that much money. Both Universal and Verbinski have vowed not to let Bioshock fall down the Halo hole, but we’ll see.

Though dozens and dozens of video games have been turned into feature films, only one has ever cleared $160 million. That’s the first Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, which grossed $274 million worldwide. Video game movies haven’t worked, so it’s hard to justify investing money in them. Or maybe it’s self-fulfilling prophecy. Hollywood doesn’t think video game movies work and so they don’t invest enough money and time in them, and so no one goes to see video game movies because the product Hollywood releases is pretty half-assed.

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