They say one person’s trash is another’s treasure. Case in point: Robert Ludlum licensing rights. Not that it is fitting to call the gaming rights for the book catalog of a bestselling author trash, far from it, but when Activision Blizzard decided to cast the rights off, rival Electronic Arts was all too happy to pick them up instead.
EA announced today that they’ve reached a multi-year exclusive license for all of Ludlum’s written works, including the Jason Bourne series.
It was never clear whether that decision was based on the risks of internal competition with other Activision Blizzard titles as some have speculated, notably the James Bond series, or if the company’s executives simply decided the Ludlum intellectual property wasn’t likely to yield the kind of sequel-ready, probable blockbusters Activision tries to keep itself narrowly focused on. Whatever the reason, the rights reverted back to Ludlum Entertainment, the company that manages the late author’s estate and which is run by his former accountant, Jeffrey Weiner.
Though best known for the Jason Bourne series, which has spawned a billion dollar global movie franchise (box office), Ludlum wrote more than 25 other titles before passing away in 2001. Many of them were also best sellers. In total, more than 290 million copies of Ludlum’s books have been sold to date.
The new deal will give EA access to all of the written work from WW II era thrillers to his more present day narratives.
Ludlum Entertainment has been working hard to exploit its multi-media assets beyond Bourne for the past couple years. The EA deal is only one spoke in the wheel. Already on the books, in November, the company agreed to extend Universal Pictures license for Bourne films. A fourth installment of the series based on the Ludlum character is in the works. Director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon are both set to reprise their roles.
Further expanding its reach, Ludlum Entertainment lured its former agent, Ben Smith, out of ICM and into its own offices as president of a new production group in December. Thanks to Smith’s past work, at least three other high profile Ludlum titles (beyond Bourne) can be expected in movie theaters by 2011.
The first of these is the Sigma Protocol. Universal bought the rights for the financial espionage thriller in 2002 and now has Iron Man’s writing team on board to pen the script and director Jose Padilha at the helm. Rumor has it the plot of the World War II era book will be re-imagined in the present day.
The Matarese Circle is the second non-Bourne title in the cue. A possible two title series (the book had a sequel) about a powerful family playing puppet master in global politics, MGM and Relativity Media are developing the story with Denzel Washington set to star.
The third title is the Chancellor Manuscript, a Pelican-Brief-like story about an author’s fiction that turns out to be too close to reality. Paramount bought it for $4m in 2005 and is building it as a feature with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead.
EA, which itself has an agent and Hollywood ambitions, may be poised to benefit from these movie developments. If the films develop on schedule and EA chooses to make complimentary game titles (two big "ifs"), EA will likely see significant cross-media marketing potential – a possible boon for sales, and a potential tool for defraying expensive marketing costs.
The first game title from the new license deal will be a Jason Bourne themed work already in development at Starbreeze Studios.
Similar to when Ubisoft acquired rights to use author Tom Clancy’s name and literary catalog, financial terms for the Ludlum deal weren’t disclosed.
…..On the subject of Hollywood and Gaming Convergence, the Robert Ludlum license wasn’t the only IP left behind by Activision Blizzard and rescued by another publisher. The license for Ghostbusters, also held by Vivendi before the merger, went the way of Oliver Twist too. Infogames Entertainment (Atari) picked up the orphaned rights for the game based on Sony Pictures movie series (Infogames President Phil Harrison formerly worked at Sony Computer Entertainment) in November (PDF). Now a new title is scheduled to debut in from Atari June, just in time to compliment the twenty fifth anniversary of the movie.
We’ve combined some of the available screenshots into the composite image at right. Full, official screenshots and preview material are available at the game’s site. The game (not so creatively titled: Ghostbusters, the Video Game) will be released on Playstation 3, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, Windows, Nintendo Wii, and Nintendo DS.
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