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Warners game for Midway takeover

Studio also nabs 'Lord of the Rings' from EA

Warner Bros. is making big moves in the vidgame space to bolster its interactive biz and is snatching up the rights to a number of tentpoles.

It’s the lead bidder to take over Midway Games, which owns the “Mortal Kombat” franchise, for $33 million. It’s also taking over control of the “Lord of the Rings” franchise from Electronic Arts and will introduce its first game in the series, “Aragorn’s Quest,” at the Electronic Entertainment Expo next month.

Midway said Thursday it is seeking bankruptcy court approval for the sale of its assets to Warner Bros. for a minimum of $33 million. Midway filed for Chapter 11 protection in February.

Other bidders can also make an offer for the company, according to legal procedures. French vidgame publisher Ubisoft is said to be interested in the assets as well. An auction will take place June 29, with Midway looking to close the sale by July 15.

Should the sale go through, Warner Bros. would take over Midway’s assets, including most of its games and development studios in Chicago and Seattle. Purchase would not include its facility in San Diego or Newcastle, England, which recently released the “Wheelman” game with Vin Diesel. The “TNA” series of wrestling games isn’t part of the acquisition either.

Midway already had a close relationship with Warner Bros. Its DC comicbook characters were central to the fighting game “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe,” and Midway produced games based on the feature-length toons “Happy Feet” and “Ant Bully.”

Midway owes nearly $8 million in license fees to Warner Bros. for those deals, which the studio would waive upon the completion of the purchase of the gamemaker.

Takeover of Midway would mark the fourth gamemaker that Warner Bros. has picked up to bolster its games biz.

It bought Snowblind Studios in February, “Lego” games producer TT Games in 2007 and Monolith Prods. in 2006. It also owns a 30% stake in Eidos (behind the “Tomb Raider” games franchise).

As for “Lord of the Rings,” Electronic Arts owned the rights to publish games based on the franchise for the past eight years.

The rights recently reverted back to New Line, letting Warner Bros. make games based on the pics.

“Aragorn’s Quest” is described as “the first ‘Lord of the Rings’ videogame created specifically for kids and their families.”

While the franchise is an aging one, New Line is in the midst of developing several “Hobbit” movies, which could breathe life into the property once they bow in 2012.

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