Videogame release brings up film rumors

When “Ghostbusters II” reached the bigscreen 20 years ago, the expectation was that it surely would be followed by another edition of the comedy franchise.

That never happened, as principals never could quite come to terms on a deal.

But they did reunite recently for a videogame –and while videogames are usually an ancillary afterthought as studios reboot franchises, in the case of “Ghostbusters,” the vidgame is resuscitating the idea of a film sequel.

Sony officially says the game and film are independent projects. But they’re encouraged that the game, through its development process and release, has helped reinvigorate the franchise.

A June 16 launch of the “Ghostbusters” game in Dallas saw hundreds of fans crowding a GameStop store — and Amazon.com currently ranks it as the top-selling title for the Xbox 360 and the second best-selling title for the PlayStation 3.

While Sony won’t go so far as to say the success or failure of the game will determine whether “Ghostbusters 3″ moves forward, it will at least be a factor in the decision. Work is underway on the script for a third film.

“For now, we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of the franchise,” says Mark Caplan, VP of licensing at Sony Pictures. “The game and the Blu-ray (release) will have a big impact on all of us. And we’ll decide what to do from there.”

Given the number of years since the last movie, Harold Ramis, one of the stars and writers of the original, was a bit circumspect. He recently told AMCTV.com, “I won’t say I’m skeptical, I’m just not counting on anything. For me, I’ve loved the ‘Ghostbusters’ — the whole concept of it has been great in my life. I’m happy to do another movie if the script was worthy. If it never happened I’d be fine.”

Work on the game began three years ago, after Sony combed its library for game-friendly titles. “We looked at the library of properties that we have at Sony Pictures, and we felt ‘Ghostbusters’ had all the properties inherent in a film that would translate to a videogame. It had built-in recognition and had suitable content for a wide audience,” Caplan says.

The effort marks the first major videogame deal on behalf of one of Sony’s library titles, with advances for longterm deals of this caliber typically reaching into the tens of millions of dollars.

The studio also has a freshly minted Blu-ray DVD release of the original, and a promotion running that includes a chance to win a trip to Comic-Con.

For the game, the studio enlisted Terminal Reality, a Dallas-based game development studio. A lingering question was whether the audience would still be there.

They got their answer, ironically, when another developer, unaware that Terminal Reality had secured the license, leaked footage of its take on a “Ghostbusters” game online, and it generated a huge response.

When legitimate licensed footage was released, the excitement didn’t wane.

“There’s no question that the game being announced and coming out has really brought Ghostbusters back into the spotlight,” says Brendan Goss, the game’s executive producer.

The path to retail shelves was rocky, though. Sony turned down proposals from three other developers before deciding to move forward with Terminal Reality. And despite bouncing from publishers Sierra to Activision-Blizzard to Atari, reviews have been generally favorable. Critics say the game effectively captures the camaraderie and humor of the films.

“When we started this project, we said, ‘We have to create a high-quality authentic experience for Ghostbusters,’ ” says Drew Haworth, creative director of the game. “We do not want this to come across as another license-exploiting, crap movie-videogame.”

The “Ghostbusters” game features most of the talent from the film (with only Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis declining to lend their voices) and uses a new graphics engine developed by Terminal Reality to recreate the film’s distinctive visual effects. The script — with more than 10,000 lines of dialogue, much longer than a film screenplay — was co-written by Dan Aykroyd and Ramis. Ramis, Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson all put in two or three days of work on dialogue.

“We wouldn’t have done this game six years ago,” Sony’s Caplan says. “I just don’t think the technology was there.”

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