Three years and still no 'Planet of the Apes' vidgame

Comic book junkies and sci-fi devotees may be salivating over Fox’s latest filmed installment of “Planet of the Apes” this summer, but fans awaiting the studio’s highly hyped vidgame based on that film or the studio’s older franchise, will just have to keep on waiting.

The tale of Fox’s missing monkeys spans at least three years, as the studio’s vidgame division Fox Interactive has been pushing its own “Planet of the Apes” vidgame on the E3 convention show floor.

Last year, Fox pulled out all the stops, erecting massive signage and even parading out angry looking actors in monkey suits beating on bamboo cages with frightened loin-clothed humans inside.

But a year later, the game still doesn’t have a release date and Fox’s game division doesn’t want to spill the bananas about any new developments.

When it comes to summer event pics, studios are zealous about spinning a film’s franchise into several licensing products. Videogames based on films are difficult products to sync in time with a film’s release, since their production time usually takes 12-18 months. However, in the case of “Apes,” Fox Interactive had more than ample time to ready the game: it was on the drawing board two years prior the greenlight of the Tim Burton film. So why the postponement?

One of the prime reasons is Fox Interactive’s recent decision to co-publish its games — a move that signifies the eventual end of the vidgame division to many industry insiders. According to a Fox Interactive rep, however, the game division is simply taking advantage of the vast videogame industry talent outside its walls, and while it will no longer produce games inhouse, it will still act as a small office for Fox that oversees the studio’s vidgame licenses.

Fox Interactive recently sold the exclusive rights of its key game franchises to Vivendi Universal and powerhouse Electronic Arts. Under the agreement, the new software distribs will manufacture, market and distribute Fox titles for the PC and next-generation consoles.

Viv U has also nabbed up “Aliens vs. Predator 2,” “Cops,” “Die Hard,” and an original Fox spy title “No One Lives Forever,” while EA has recently picked up future titles “Simpsons Road Rage” and “Colonial Marines.” Fox Interactive says that “Planet of the Apes” is in the process of signing with a separate co-publisher.

Fox Interactive is also unfazed by the July 27 release date of the Tim Burton “Apes” pic, because itsgame is based on the older version of the “Apes” franchise. The vidgame centers on a fictitious character named Ulysses who lands on a planet 1,000 years in the future and roams the landscape, fighting monkeys from the 1960s film. Fox Interactive believes that releasing the product alongside the film would confuse the customer, as teen buyers would be expecting characters similar to the new “Apes” pic.

“The Planet of the Apes” vidgame was being created for the PC, PlayStation, and Sega Dreamcast, however the latter system’s plans are obviously now defunct.

But the planned title suffered from other problems:

Buzz on the game from previous E3 attendees is that “Apes” doesn’t play well. The third-person perspective game is a mock-up of popular shoot-‘em-up game “Doom.” On top of that, Fox’s choice of Visiware, a French game designer, is seen as fudgey. Many die-hard Silicon connoisseurs believe that the new crop of French games look gorgeous, but play bumpy.

Exclamations from one Silicon industry observer solidifies Fox Interactive’s problem with the “Apes” franchise all along: “Who the hell is going to remember the original ‘Planet of the Apes!’ Any twentysomething who loved the film back then, would now be a fiftysomething!”

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