Duo sign multiyear licensing deal for vidgames

While some videogame publishers are shying away from licensing deals, THQ is stepping up. The company has signed a multiyear deal with DreamWorks Animation to make games based on upcoming films.

The first title, based upon the upcoming “Megamind,” is due this November.

For the publisher, it’s a chance to continue its income stream from the younger segment of the gaming world, a demographic it has been solidly in control of for years.

“The videogame audience is fragmented,” said THQ chief exec Brian Farrell. “If we make games for a DreamWorks film, we know what that audience is.”

For DreamWorks, it’s a chance to expand its properties beyond the theater screen — with minimal financial risk.

“We follow the gaming industry closely, but that doesn’t make us experts in it,” said Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation. “It takes a very unique skill set to tell a great story in a videogame. … The translation of our film, which is a passive experience, into a game story, which is an active experience, is a complete unique set of skills and talents that we don’t have in our studio.”

THQ’s gamemakers will work closely with the Dreamteam team throughout the development process. Katzenberg and Farrell say a gaming team typically embeds with the animators two years before release, sharing ideas and making sure the gamemakers fully understand the project so the film world can be carefully replicated when the material transitions to the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or Wii.

Initially, there won’t be a big push to make the games in stereoscopic 3D as so many DreamWorks Animations films now are, but neither party is ruling that out.

3D has been a theme of this year’s E3 show, with Nintendo introducing a new 3D handheld that doesn’t require glasses and Sony touting the 3D capabilities of the PlayStation 3.

For a young audience, 3D could be a viable way to ensure they crave licensed games from established publishers rather than the cheaper apps that are the domain of the iPhone.

“I believe the real success story for 3D is going to be driven primarily by videogames and sports,” Katzenberg said.

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