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HOLLYWOOD — Sony will use games as a way to lure audiences to see its films.

The studio’s Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment division plans to create three games per year that are tied closely with its tentpole pics and are distribbed initially online. Each game will bow when its affiliated pic is released in theaters and will be promoted via the pic’s marketing campaign — unusual considering that most movie-related games are released when a pic hits homevideo.

First game is “Men in Black II: Crossfire,” to be unveiled at the E3 vidgame confab this month in Los Angeles and released in June. First level of the game will be free to play, but Sony will charge gamers roughly $15-$20 for access to the rest of the game.

Move is part of what Sony is calling its new e-distribution strategy, in which games will be released to the growing base of online gamers (111 million by 2005, according to Datamonitor) — a lucrative demo that flocks to films.

While titles will be made available on a film’s official Web site, they will also be syndicated across the Web on multiple gaming sites and portals and will be included on a pic’s DVD and playable on Internet-networked vidgame consoles such as the PlayStation 2. WildTangent plans to distrib the games through its Broadcast Games Network, which currently reaches more than 60 million Netizens.

Idea is to use a game to promote not only a movie’s theatrical release but also its homevid, pay-per-view or video-on-demand release later on.

Studio was successful last year with an online game that went along with its “A Knight’s Tale” actioner.

“This strategy is our next step in both the commercial delivery of games over the Internet, what we’re now calling e-distribution, as well as the next level in online film marketing,” said Tim Chambers, senior veep of Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment’s Advanced Platforms group. “Through these games, we are looking to deepen the engagement and experience for our users while extending the studio’s brands both on and offline.”

WildTangent created “Men in Black II: Crossfire” using the company’s WebDriver technology, which enables the development of an online game that looks and plays similar to a game available on a vidgame console. Technology also enables multiple people to play simultaneously. The Redmond, Wash.-based company also created the “A Knight’s Tale” game.

“The WildTangent Web Driver is the only technology solution in existence for reliably broadcasting retail-quality games over both narrowband and broadband connections,” said Alex St. John, CEO of WildTangent.

Company has also created titles for Fox Sports, TBS Superstation and TNT, with the games subsidized through advertising, pay-to-play, subscriptions or sponsorships.