UTA is increasing its commitment to the vidgame market by hiring industry vet Jonathan Epstein to head a new San Francisco office focused on forging corporate partnerships for game companies.
It’s a new area for Hollywood agencies. Though all the major tenpercenteries have agents focused on the vidgame industry, they have primarily worked on bringing talent into games and on licensing deals.
Epstein is one of the pioneers of vidgame media, having founded GameSpot.com and later serving as prexy of Gamespy, two of the leading news outlets in the game world. Most recently, he was exec veep for media at IGN/Gamespy, following the merger of the two companies.
Hiring the well-connected Epstein marks the biggest nab for a tenpercentery from the vidgame world since CAA hired Xbox co-creator Seamus Blackley in 2003.
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“Our strategy in adding Jon to the agency and establishing UTA in the geographic heart of the gaming industry is to build a deeper, more effective relationship between the games industry, Hollywood and brands who are seeking innovative marketing solutions,” said UTA board member Jeremy Zimmer.
Among the deals Epstein, who started at the new year, hopes to work on are in-game advertising, marketing partnerships and location-based entertainment. He’ll work with game publishers, developers and retailers.
He also plans to look at new types of deals that might get vidgame companies involved early in the development of intellectual property, rather than licensing films after they have been greenlit for production.
“There’s an opportunity to flip some of the traditional models on their heads,” Epstein said of his new post. “The idea that game companies have to work the Hollywood way has blocked some successful collaborations that could have existed.”
Epstein will work in concert with UTA’s L.A.-based vidgame agent Brent Weinstein.
Epstein’s move to agenting was prompted by former Gamespy board member and Quattro Media partner Peter Levin, who repped former boss Michael Ovitz’s interest in the company.