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Video game companies move onto Hollywood's turf

Some publishers are making their own films, motivated by a desire to maintain control of their most valuable assets -- and benefit in the event that they hit upon the next big movie franchise.

July 23, 2009|Ben Fritz

It's now using the same technique for "Assassin's Creed II: Lineage," three live-action films, 10 to 15 minutes in length each, that serve as a prologue for the Assassin's Creed II game that will be released in November. Writers for both the films and the game worked together on the story, and many of the actors cast in the films also did voice-over and motion-capture work for their characters in the game, which tells the story of an assassin in Renaissance Italy.

"We have much better connection with the game team than we ever did with a [Hollywood] studio," said Pierre Raymond, chief executive of Hybride, who oversaw production along with director Yves Simoneau. "But that means we are constantly inserting each other's ideas and pushing our luck timing-wise."

The game companies, however, still need Hollywood's distribution clout to get their short films in front of the public. Microsoft has enlisted Warner Bros. to distribute "Halo Legends" on DVD and through digital platforms in early 2010.

Ubisoft hasn't finalized distribution plans for "Assassin's Creed" but expects to release each of the short films separately before the game's Nov. 17 launch.

It remains to be seen how quickly other game publishers may follow suit. But Ubisoft has made no secret of its intention to use Hybride for further film production. One obvious candidate: a series of military games created by thriller novelist Tom Clancy. Last year the company bought rights from the author to use the games in all media.

Several executives at Hollywood studios and production companies note that they have approached Ubisoft about acquiring movie rights to its game franchises, but have been uniformly shot down. Mallat said that was no mistake.

"There are many steps to go before Ubisoft is a producer of feature films or TV series," he said. "But who knows? It would make sense."


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