Studios battle for EA game rights

Dante-inspired videogame goes through Hell

Four studios are in a high-stakes bidding battle for rights to a new videogame from Electronic Arts that hasn’t even been publicly announced yet.

Game, which is expected to launch late next year, involves a journey through the depths of hell. EA hasn’t officially titled it yet, though sources said it’s likely to be called “Dante’s Inferno,” as it’s a modern interpretation of the epic poem. Publisher has reportedly cleared that title for usage.

EA declined to comment, as did its reps at UTA, which will broker the movie deal.

By Thursday evening, Universal, Paramount, New Regency and MGM were battling for the property, after Warner Bros. dropped out earlier in the day. Competition underscores the fact that as studios swing for the fences on branded properties with tentpole potential, videogames are becoming the hottest segment of the marketplace, despite their spotty box office track record.

Deal is unusual in that “Dante’s Inferno” has not been released or even shown to the public. Typically studios like to see how videogames sell, or at least are received in early press previews, before committing to a deal.

EA has been extremely active licensing its projects to Hollywood this year. Just days ago it set “Army of Two” at Universal with Scott Z. Burns (“Bourne Ultimatum”) writing and Scott Stuber producing along with the publisher. “The Sims” is being developed by Fox and producer John Davis, while “Spider-Man” producer Avi Arad has optioned “Mass Effect.”

Other major vidgame movie deals this year include Universal’s acquisition of “BioShock” and “God of War,” with Gore Verbinski and Brett Ratner, respectively, attached to direct.