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Patterson to enter gaming world

Author's pact with Oberon targets women

James Patterson is the latest bestselling author to dive into the vidgame biz, but he’s not going after the traditional game player.

Scribe behind “The Women’s Murder Club” and “Alex Cross” book series has pacted with casual vidgame developer and publisher Oberon Media for a series of games aimed primarily at women.

Multiyear deal calls for Oberon to produce numerous games with Patterson’s brand name, most likely in the mystery or romance genres. Some will be based on Patterson’s existing books, others on original stories.

Oberon will distribute games online and for cell phones. Elephant Entertainment will distribute the games at retail locations for PCs and, potentially, Nintendo’s Wii and DS consoles.

By pacting with Patterson, the publishers are trying to emulate Ubisoft’s success making action and stealth games under the Tom Clancy brand. Vivendi has a similar deal to make games based on Robert Ludlum’s books.

“The casual games market is right where I am, with about 70% of my readers and their players being female,” Patterson said. “A lot of people who read my books may think they don’t like games, and we can reach that audience for the first time.”

Casual games, which are typically easy to pick up and play for just a few minutes, are one of the hottest areas of the vidgame biz. Many of the big publishers, such as Electronic Arts, are investing money in titles aimed at people who don’t own an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 and don’t typically play games.

That aud primarily consists of women and middle-aged people — precisely the market Oberon and Elephant plan to target with their Patterson games.

“We’re trying to explore new ground and broaden the market with this deal,” said Oberon VP of publishing Don Ryan.

Oberon expects the Patterson games, the first of which will likely be released next year, to be their most expensive and ambitious to date. Deal gives Oberon the right to make sequels to any games that prove successful.

Beyond traditional vidgame retailers, Elephant is hoping to distribute Patterson games at bookstores and other alternative locations.

“The property transcends traditional boundaries, and we think we can do the same thing with our resellers,” said Elephant CEO Wim Stocks.

So far, 2007 has proved to be the first year with significant licensing activity in the casual games space. Sierra Entertainment is making a downloadable “Battlestar Galactica” title (Daily Variety, Feb. 12), while MumboJumbo recently signed a deal to make a casual game based on “The Office” (Daily Variety, June 20).

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