Bonus ‘Materials’

New Line, Sega devise a game plan

Hoping to match the success of “The Lord of the Rings” on the PlayStation as well as on the bigscreen, New Line has signed a videogame licensing deal with Sega for “His Dark Materials.”

Pact marks a big jump back into Hollywood licensing for the Japanese videogame publisher, which hasn’t produced any console games based on movies in more than a decade.

Agreement, which also involves book publisher Scholastic, gives Sega interactive rights to all three books in Philip Pullman’s “Dark Materials” trilogy. New Line is currently shooting first entry “The Golden Compass” and expects to make two more, with Sega producing companion games.

Electronic Arts has made several successful “Lord of the Rings” games not tied to the pics and recently extended its deal with New Line and books rights holder the Saul Zaentz Co. to produce more. Sega would have to make a separate deal to produce games not tied to film releases.

Numerous publishers are known to have been interested, since fantasy franchises based on bestselling books, such as “Rings” and “Harry Potter,” have been big hits in the vidgame world.

Financial details weren’t available, but New Line undoubtedly will be getting a multimillion-dollar advance against royalties.

“The interest was comparable with ‘Lord of the Rings,’ which is partly because we’ve shown we can deliver successful films based on published works,” said David Imhoff, New Line exec VP for worldwide licensing and merchandising. “Sega had a quality presentation and also has the ability to make this a global initiative, which is critical to us.”

Mini-major is expected to unveil several other major licensing deals for “Materials” in the next few weeks, including a master toy license and numerous promotional partners.

Sega, which used to be a dominant hardware and game maker along with Sony and Nintendo, has recently scaled back to a midsize game publisher. Thanks to a merger two years ago with arcade company Sammy, company has a new infusion of cash and is looking to spend on top properties in hopes of again becoming a top publisher.

“If Sega is going to rise to that top tier, we need to have licensed properties blended into our portfolio,” said Sega of America marketing VP Scott Steinberg. “It won’t be easy or cheap, but you’ve got to go big or go home, and we believe this has the potential to be a breakout hit.”

Steinberg said Sega expects to make several other high-profile Hollywood licensing deals in the next year.

Company is already at work on the “Golden Compass” game and plans to release it on multiple consoles along with the pic next November.

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