Vivendi, Sony call ‘Ghostbusters’

Duo pact on videogame franchise

Vivendi Games is pacting with Sony Pictures to turn “Ghostbusters” into a videogame franchise.

First title in what the publisher hopes will be a series of “Ghostbusters” games is set for release in fall ’08 from Vivendi’s Sierra label.

All four members of the movie team — Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis — will be giving voice and likeness rights for the game. Some supporting castmembers have signed up as well, including William Atherton, Brian Doyle Murray and Annie Potts.

In addition, film scribes Aykroyd and Ramis will pen a story for the vidgame that takes place in the early ’90s, after “Ghostbusters II,” during a new ghoul invasion of New York City.

Deal comes on the heels of several other classic movies that have recently been adapted into successful vidgames, including EA’s “The Godfather” and Vivendi’s own “Scarface: The World Is Yours.”

“We noticed we did well on ‘Scarface’ and were alert for new opportunities to turn iconic film products into games in a way that is a new manifestation of the franchise,” Vivendi Games CEO Bruce Hack said. “‘Ghostbusters’ is unquestionably among the small number of movies in that class.”

Vivendi has sold more than 2.5 million units of last year’s “Scarface” game worldwide, grossing more than $125 million and making it a solid success, if not quite at the level of top franchises like “Halo.” Though Vivendi hasn’t yet confirmed plans, a sequel is known to be in the works.

Hack noted that, in making both deals, Vivendi did a survey of gamers asking which movie properties they would like to see turned into videogames. “Scarface” and “Ghostbusters” were both in the top five.

Publisher is particularly optimistic for the chances of “Ghostbusters” because, unlike the young male-targeted “Scarface,” it has the potential to appeal to children and adults. Developer Terminal Reality is making a “Ghostbusters” game for PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 aimed primarily at the core gamer demographic, while Red Fly Studio is making a version for Playstation 2, Wii and DS designed more for families and casual gamers.

With the addition of “Ghostbusters,” Vivendi now has several licensed franchises in its portfolio, including “Scarface,” the Robert Ludlum books such as “Bourne Identity” and “Covert One,” and rapper 50 Cent.

It’s the first major vidgame deal for one of its library titles that Sony Pictures has made. Studio talked with several publishers before making a deal with Vivendi. Such deals can be quite lucrative because licensing revenue comes in with very little spending on the studio’s side. Advances for multiyear deals on major franchises such as “Ghostbusters” are typically in the tens of millions of dollars.

“This brand is a very important asset for the studio, and we feel it’s prime time for it to be rediscovered through videogames,” said Mark Caplan, VP of Sony’s consumer products division.

Several “Ghostbusters” games came out around the time of the two movies, and one in the past decade has been tied to the animated series “Extreme Ghostbusters.”

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