Sony takes page for Ubisoft’s game plan

Deal is last to tie up animated pics for the next few years

HOLLYWOOD — Ubisoft has signed a multipic licensing agreement with Sony Pictures to create vidgames based on its first two animated movies, “Open Season” and “Surf’s Up.”

Financial details weren’t released, but such deals typically involve a multimillion-dollar advance by the vidgame publisher to the film studio against royalties based on sales.

Agreement is notable because Sony has a vidgame publisher in its sister company, Sony Computer Entertainment. But the Japanese electronics giant has made no effort to encourage synergy between its vidgame and film divisions, according to insiders.

Deal is the last to tie up Hollywood’s slate of CGI animated pics for the next several years. Pixar has signed THQ to create games based on “Cars” and its following four movies; Disney sister company Buena Vista Games is creating adaptations of Mouse House CGI pics starting with this fall’s “Chicken Little”; DreamWorks Animation has a licensing deal with Activision; and Vivendi Universal Games is creating vidgames based on Fox animated pics, beginning with March release “Robots.”

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Due to their popularity with moppets, such licenses are consistent hits in the vidgame world. Adaptations of “Shrek 2,” “The Incredibles” and “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” were the third, fourth and fifth bestselling movie-based games, respectively, in 2004, according to market tracker NPD (Daily Variety, Jan. 19).

Ubisoft games will be released concurrent with the pics. “Open Season” is set for a September 2006 bow, “Surf’s Up” for 2007.

By acquiring the license several years in advance, Ubisoft will have more time to develop the games. Many in the vidgame world have blamed last-minute deals for low-quality products.

Deal also comes as Ubisoft has been confronting threats to its existence. Competitor Electronic Arts recently acquired 20% of the French company’s stock, and many have speculated it will attempt a takeover.