Warner buys TT Games

U.K. company publishes 'Lego' videogames

Warner Bros. has added another piece to its videogame operation, acquiring “Lego Star Wars” developer and co-publisher TT Games.

It’s the second game developer that Warner Bros., the only studio with an inhouse vidgame unit, has acquired.

Financial details weren’t disclosed, but the deal is worth significantly more than Warner Bros.’ paid for its first developer, Monolith Prods., in 2004. Industry sources estimated the value to be well into the tens of millions.

Though it was formed in 2005, U.K.-based TT Games has immediately become a prominent player in the industry because of its licensing deal with Lego, which led to the surprise hit “Lego Star Wars” in 2005 and two sequels. Company has since signed pacts to make “Lego Batman” for Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and “Lego Indiana Jones” for LucasArts.

Company’s development arm, Traveller’s Tales, has been around for 18 years and has made more than a dozen games, including adaptations of “Toy Story” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” It’s well known in the industry for having made Activision’s successful “Transformers” game this summer on an extremely tight schedule of just a few months.

“The videogame business is becoming a lot more like the film business, and the ability to go to retail with a couple of big tentpoles every year is really helpful,” said Warner home entertainment group prexy Kevin Tsujihara. “They have shown an ability to do that.”

TT Games execs, including development topper Jon Burton and publishing head Tom Stone, will report directly to Tsujihara, not to the veeps in charge of the studio’s vidgame division, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. It’s believed that’s because TT will continue to operate largely independently.

Tsujihara noted that Traveller’s Tales can continue to make “Lego Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” games for LucasArts and may do other development for outside publishers.

Any original or Warner-licensed games it makes, however, will be published by WBIE.

Originally formed in 2004, WBIE recently has been moving to bolster its ability to self-publish games, helped by a $500 million fund dedicated to vidgames as part of WB’s multibillion-dollar partnership with Abu Dhabi.

That money wasn’t used to finance the acquisition, but it will likely help fund some TT games.

WBIE recently published two “Looney Tunes” games and is releasing a game based on the studio’s “Speed Racer” movie, “Lego Batman” and a sequel to Monolith’s successful “F.E.A.R.” next year.

Execs in charge of WBIE have said that they are looking to acquire several developers. Tsujihara confirmed that TT Games is “not the last” purchase WB will make in the vidgame space.

(Archie Thomas in London contributed to this article.)