Vidgamer hopes ‘Prince of Persia’ can turn things around

Ubisoft is the latest vidgamemaker to prove that publishers are just as dependent on high-profile franchises as Hollywood’s major studios.

The French company, whose “Prince of Persia” series is being readied as a tentpole for Disney next summer, reported a $109 million loss on $232 million in sales during the first half of its fiscal year due to a lack of major titles.

To reverse the hit on its bottom line, Ubisoft said it plans to release “Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands” as a new installment in the franchise in May for consoles and handheld devices.

While game’s release will be timed with the Memorial Day bow of the Mouse House’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, new title will not include elements from the film. Instead it will be based on a new storyline that advances the plot of the original “Sands of Time” game.

Title will target hardcore and casual gamers in order to “reach both audiences,” said Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, in order to attract new gamers to the property.The second half of Ubisoft’s fiscal year, which wraps up at the end of March, is expected to prove more lucrative, considering its medieval actioner “Assassin’s Creed II” sold 1.6 million units worldwide during its first week of release last week. That’s 32% up on what the first game sold during its initial bow in 2007.

It’s the latest tentpole game to perform well, with “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2″ earning a record $550 million during its first week for Activision Blizzard.

In addition to “Assassin’s Creed II,” Ubisoft has also been generating pre-release buzz for this week’s launch of “Avatar: The Game,” which uses the same technology developed for James Cameron’s sci-fi actioner in order to mimic the look of the film.

It also has sequel “Splinter Cell: Conviction” — the fifth in the Tom Clancy-created series — set to bow exclusively on the Xbox 360 in February.

“Our Wii games have got off to a more contrasted start in a less predictable market,” Guillemot said.

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