The Minions are about to run rampant at Electronic Arts.
The vidgame company’s mobile arm has signed a multiyear deal with Illumination Entertainment and Universal to bring the yellow, Twinkie-shaped characters, which debuted in 2010’s “Despicable Me,” to new games for smartphones and tablets.
The first title, “Minions Paradise,” will debut this summer — likely around the same time the characters’ standalone feature “Minions” hits theaters (slated for July 10 release). In the free-to-play title, players will create their own utopia. Playing as Phil, a brand-new character, they’ll help other Minions design, build and craft in a tropical environment.
Illumination team members will work with EA’s developers to hone the creative aspects of the games, which will extend beyond the Minions to characters from other upcoming films. Future Illumination projects include “The Secret Life of Pets,” which will star comedians Louis C.K. and Kevin Hart; an animated feature of Ricky Gervais’ “Flanimals” books; and a CGI adaptation of the Uglydoll toy franchise.
“We strive to find unique ways to work with our partners and are excited that our filmmaking team is creating game content side by side with EA and Universal,” Chris Meledandri, founder and CEO of Illumination Entertainment, said in a statement. “We want to bring the same level of care and creativity to these games that we bring to our films…. ‘Minions Paradise’ is a great way to start our new partnership with EA, and we look forward to sharing the game with fans all over the world this summer.”
EA has a rich history of partnerships with animation studios. In 2012, the company released “The Simpsons: Tapped Out” for mobile devices. Within eight months, revenue for that free-to-play game topped $100 million, as fans paid real-world money for in-game items. Today, more than three years after its launch, it remains one of the top-grossing titles in Apple’s iTunes App Store.
Mobile has been EA’s fastest-growing division. For the company’s quarter ended Dec. 31, 2014, mobile net revenue was up 25% year over year, to $139 million. Excluding legacy declines for games on feature phones, mobile sales grew 28%.
EA and Universal have a long history together. In 2008, the studio bought the film rights for two games, “Dante’s Inferno” and “Army of Two.” Both projects appear to be in turnaround, as the games behind them were not breakout hits. Last year, EA teamed with Touchstone Pictures to release “Need for Speed” based on the game developer’s long-running driving games.