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EA, Spielberg Team Up to Make Video Games

October 14, 2005|Julie Tamaki | Times Staff Writer

The world's largest independent video game publisher isn't just going Hollywood; it's going to the top of the A-list.

Electronic Arts Inc. is scheduled to announce today that it is partnering with Steven Spielberg, hoping that one of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood history can help it top the box office in the world of video games.

Don't expect to see new video game versions of "Jaws," "Schindler's List" or "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Spielberg, an avid video game fan, plans to help developers at EA's Los Angeles studio churn out three original creations.

"Having watched the game industry grow from a niche to a major creative force in entertainment, I have a great deal of respect for EA's understanding of the creative format," Spielberg said in a statement.

Executives of Redwood City, Calif.-based EA declined to disclose the financial terms of the deal or the genres of the games their developers were pursuing with Spielberg.

"He really wants to make sure each of these products has at least one really meaningful innovation that nobody has ever seen before," said Neil Young, general manager and vice president for EA's studio in Playa Vista. "It would be akin to 'Jurassic Park' as a film. Nobody had seen dinosaurs moving that way before. That innovation added so much dimensionality to that film."

Young said players could expect to see the games on the next generation of consoles by Microsoft Corp., Sony Corp. and Nintendo Co. and possibly other platforms.

Countless movies have provided fodder for video games, and in recent years games have begun to inspire movies, as popular titles "Tomb Raider," "Mortal Kombat" and "Doom" were made into motion pictures. This month, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, the creative team behind "The Lord of the Rings" movies, announced that they would produce a film adaptation of Microsoft's blockbuster video game "Halo."

The collaboration between EA and Spielberg represents a twist to the deepening relationship between the movie and video game industries, as Young said none of the games would be based on Spielberg films.

In any case, history has shown that a Hollywood association won't necessarily translate to profits for video game makers. In fact, it was the game based on the 1982 Spielberg film "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" that industry executives say contributed to the industry crash the next year. So many copies went unsold that many reportedly wound up in a New Mexico landfill.

Young has higher hopes for EA's tie-up with Spielberg.

"We're trying to answer the question: Can a computer game make you cry?" Young said. "Partnering with Steven, we're going to get closer to answering it, and maybe we'll answer it together."

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