Studio inks pic pact with Activision

DreamWorks will once again play with publisher Activision, having signed a massive deal to create vidgames based on the studio’s next three CG-animated pics and any sequels.

Deal covers “Sharkslayer,” due fall 2004; “Madagascar,” due in 2005; and “Over the Hedge,” due in 2006 or so. The two sides declined to specify the deal’s value, though both said it was one of the biggest they’ve been involved in because it covers so many properties and platforms over so many years.

“This is an extremely important deal to us,” said Brad Globe, who heads DreamWorks’ consumer products division.

“I wish I had someone paying me this much money for my intellectual property,” said Activision chairman-CEO Robert Kotick. “But if you look at the next three years, we now have probably the three biggest franchises from them.”

Kotick said the three properties are easily adaptable to the vidgame world, unlike some other upcoming animated releases. “Madagascar,” for instance, follows zoo animals who are released into the wild after living a life of protected ease.

Activision teams will work closely with DreamWorks animators, incorporating their computer-generated assets, voice talent and music from each film where appropriate.

Surfing the promo wave

Multiyear deal would be stretched considerably if sequels are authorized, and long lead gives Activision developers enough time to create solid titles tied to release of each film’s theatrical debut.

While still unusual given the lengthy development involved on both sides, such day-and-date releases are increasingly sought because both pic and game can then ride the same promotional wave of attention.

“This business is so critical to a (studio’s) consumer products program,” Globe said. “Where some of the categories play out pretty quickly, interactive games can have a much longer shelf life.”

Deal covers games developed for all consoles, PCs and handheld devices. It also will likely involve titles created for the next-generation consoles that ultimately replace the GameCube, Xbox and PlayStation 2 in 2006 or after, Kotick said.

The two companies already have had extensive dealings. Activision and TDK Mediactive co-publish vidgames based on “Shrek” and its sequel. Activision also recently created vidgames based on DreamWorks’ “Minority Report,” timed to the film’s holiday DVD release.

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