Studio gears up for videogames

Get ready for Paramount the videogame publisher.

The studio has expanded its interactive department team and is putting together a slate of games that it will partially or completely finance and for which it will more directly oversee development. Games will be based either on new Par films or catalog titles.

Details on Par’s inaugural self-published or co-published games weren’t available, but the first few are expected to come out later this year.

Studio is looking to invest in all types of videogames but is particularly interested in casual, handheld and mobile games, as they can be made for only a few million dollars, compared with the $20 million or more it costs to produce a title for the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360.

“We are entering into deals now where we will be publishing games this year,” said Sandi Isaacs, Par’s senior veep of interactive and mobile. “There’s going to be a slate where in some cases we’re publishing, in some cases we’re co-publishing, or in others we’re funding development and another publisher buys it. It’s important for us to have a flexible model.”

Paramount will also continue licensing some of its properties to other vidgame publishers as it has in the past. But its involvement in funding and publishing videogames marks a new commitment that could easily run into the tens of millions of dollars.

Isaacs said the studio may tap outside financing to contribute to the expanded vidgame efforts.

Par will be only the second film studio publishing videogames, along with Warner Bros. Others have focused exclusively on licensing, though several are considering forays into publishing as well.

Though such moves are financially risky, an increasing number of studio execs think that getting more involved in vidgames based on their movies will help them to ensure quality as well as move faster without having to wait for a publisher to become interested and make a deal.

“This gives us a great advantage in the timely evaluation of what’s in development and could become good games, as well as working with our talent from the early stages,” Isaacs noted.

To support the efforts, Par has tapped industry vet Matt Candler as its VP of interactive development. He will handle relations with developers for games the studio is funding and also help package film properties into games. He has worked at developers Grind Games, Seven Studios and Six Studios after starting his career at Activision, where he worked with Isaacs.

Former Sega and Fox exec Luke Letizia is also joining as exec director of interactive licensing to oversee Par projects that are licensed to other vidgame publishers. They’ll work with Isaacs and Harry Lang, VP of interactive and mobile production.

Vidgames are part of the Paramount Digital Entertainment unit, which recently debuted the first studio movie online with “Jackass 2.5.”

Paramount sibling company MTV has also recently become involved with vidgames. Its first game, “Rock Band,” came out in November and has sold 1.8 million units.

Sumner Redstone, chairman of Par’s parent company Viacom, also owns troubled vidgame publisher Midway, though it has no business relationship with Viacom.

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