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‘Matrix’ game’s clicking

Atari ships 4 million orders; title sells out in some stores

“Matrix” mania has fueled sales of the Atari vidgame “Enter the Matrix,” which the Wachowski brothers wrote and directed while shooting “Reloaded” and the sequel. Game debuted worldwide the same day as the movie.

Atari, formerly known as Infogrames, spent heavily to create “Enter the Matrix.” The French publisher bought the game’s developer, Santa Monica-based Shiny Entertainment, for $47 million from Interplay last year, then ponied up another $22 million in advertising and promotion.

Cost $100 mil

Actual development costs are hard to estimate as the game was created simultaneously with the two movies and much work was shared. But add the other costs to replication and shipping for an initial 4 million orders and the company may have spent $100 million launching the title.

The bet, an extraordinary one by vidgame industry standards, appears to be paying off big, however.

Initial anecdotal reports indicate huge interest in the game, the franchise’s power far outweighing slightly critical initial reviews in buyers’ minds. At the Toys R Us store in New York’s Times Square, for instance, all copies of the game on all platforms were sold out within two hours, Atari execs said.

Encouraging signs

Other retail reports were equally encouraging for Atari and for Warner Bros., which will reap a huge royalty check from a successful game.

If all 4 million units shipped sell through, the title will generate a $200 million retail “box office” for all participants and, as Atari execs said, they can always make more copies.

The title should remain a strong presence in the market for much of the rest of the year, with boosts in interest following other “Matrix” events over the coming six months, including DVD releases and the next movie’s premiere in November.

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