Videogame giants without a home

Activision, Vivendi games hit reset

The merger of Activision with Vivendi Games has forced the owners of major Hollywood licenses like “Ghostbusters” and Jason Bourne to make new videogame plans.

Merged company, called Activision Blizzard, announced Monday that it will continue publishing only a small handful of titles in development by Vivendi’s console publishing label Sierra, including ones based on Fox’s “Ice Age” toons and well known characters Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon.

Among the titles not picked up, the biggest surprise to many gamers was “Ghostbusters,” based on Sony Pictures’ ’80s favorite. Vivendi had a vidgame adaptation set for release this fall that it promoted last week at Comic-Con.

It’s not clear why Activision Blizzard decided to drop the project, but SPE is already trying to find a new publisher to put out the game next year. In a statement to Daily Variety, studio noted that a 2009 release would tie the game to the 25th anniversary of the original film.

Sony added that it is working with Activision Blizzard “to evaluate various options.” According to industry sources, that means it’s offering the game, along with the long-term license, to other publishers.

Industryites were less surprised that Activision Blizzard didn’t keep Vivendi’s long-term license with the Robert Ludlum estate for the Jason Bourne spy novels, as they’re similar to the James Bond games Activision was already making. (Ludlum estate held onto the interactive rights for its books when making its movie deal with Universal.)

Vivendi released its first Ludlum game, “The Bourne Conspiracy,” in June. It had another game in development centered on the Treadstone spy agency where Jason Bourne originally worked.

Ludlum estate has taken back the interactive rights to its novels and is now considering several options, including making a long-term deal with a new publisher or raising money to produce “Bourne” games itself.

“The Bourne franchise is more valuable today than it was three years ago when we made the original deal with Vivendi,” said Jeffrey Weiner, CEO of Ludlum Entertainment, pointing to 2007 hit “The Bourne Ultimatum.” “This is certainly a great opportunity for us to go back out into the interactive market.”

The final Vivendi Games project not picked up by Activision Blizzard that has gamers buzzing is “Brutal Legend,” a new action title set in the world of heavy metal music with Jack Black voicing the main character. Made by critically acclaimed indie developer Double Fine and skedded to come out this fall, game was heavily anticipated by fans of the studio’s 2005 cult favorite “Psychonauts.”

It is believed that Double Fine, which retained intellectual property rights to “Brutal Legend,” is close to announcing a new publishing deal for the game, though it’s possible the release will get pushed back into 2009.

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