Studio gives videogame publisher rights to Batman, 'OC'

Warner Bros. has become the first film studio to invest in an outside vidgame publisher, buying a 10% stake in British company Eidos for $86.8 million.

First rumored two months ago (Daily Variety, Oct. 25), deal with the publisher of the popular “Tomb Raider” franchise deepens the studio’s reach in the vidgame space. Its Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment unit already co-publishes a small number of games based on studio properties.

As part of the agreement, WB is giving Eidos the right to make games based on several of its comicbook and TV properties, including Batman, the Looney Tunes characters, “The OC,” “Legion of Super-Heroes” and the Hanna-Barbera catalog.

In addition, WB’s homevid unit will handle all distribution operations for Eidos games in the U.S.

Publisher will continue to do its own manufacturing and marketing.

Agreement marks the first time WB has committed to distributing vidgames on a regular basis.

“The fact that we’re moving aggressively into distribution creates opportunities for us as a group,” said Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment topper Jason Hall. “It’s a small step,” he said, in Warner’s overall move further into videogames.

Warner originally considered buying Eidos outright before parties agreed to transfer a minority share.

In 2004, WB became the first studio to buy a game developer when it bought Monolith Prods., maker of the studio’s unsuccessful “Matrix Online” vidgame.

Eidos, which was acquired by Sci Entertainment last year, will use the cash infusion to strengthen its game development and online capabilities.

Deal still must be approved by Sci shareholders before it goes into effect.

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